New Mexico’s hospitals are required by law to offer financial assistance to low-income patients, and most counties provide indigent care programs to help pay for hospital services and healthcare in other settings. This system of hospital and county programs has been especially important for people who either cannot afford health insurance or who are not required to get insurance under the law, such as many immigrants and Native Americans.
In Bernalillo County, the University of New Mexico Hospital (UNMH) is specifically entrusted with the responsibility of caring for low-income patients through its lease agreement and public funding streams. UNMH also has a special contractual obligation to ensure Native Americans are not charged for services and receive priority access. However, UNMH has not fulfilled these obligations. The Center has been working with key community partners for many years to push UNMH to provide adequate financial assistance programs to low-income residents. Most recently, we helped lead a campaign with local partners to encourage Bernalillo County to open a lease negotiation with UNMH and ensure the Hospital provides a safety net that meets county residents’ needs.
The Center is also working to improve financial assistance policies at other New Mexico hospitals, including at Presbyterian Healthcare Services, the largest nonprofit hospital in the state. We have been evaluating the policies at these hospitals and advocating for improvements. Additionally, Center staff have provided technical and legal expertise to encourage county governments across New Mexico to develop strong indigent care programs, and we have supported legislative efforts to maintain funding for these programs.