Increasing Access to Hospitals and Indigent Care Programs

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 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. NMCLP has been working with key community partners for many years to push UNMH to provide adequate financial assistance programs to low-income residents. In 2014, we helped lead a campaign with local partners to encourage Bernalillo County to renegotiate UNMH’s lease, ensuring the Hospital provides a safety net that meets county residents’ needs.

The Center works to improve financial assistance policies at other New Mexico hospitals, including at Presbyterian Healthcare Services, the largest nonprofit hospital in the state. We evaluate the policies at these hospitals and advocate for improvements. NMCLP has also provided technical and legal expertise to encourage county governments across New Mexico to develop strong indigent care programs, and we support legislative efforts to maintain funding for these programs.

These efforts led to the passage of a non-discrimination law in 2021, prohibiting all state- or locally-funded healthcare programs from discriminating on the basis of immigration status. For example, county-funded financial assistance programs, like UNMH’s program, cannot withhold assistance because of immigration status.

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