City of Anthony stands behind ‘Medicaid Buy-in’ 

Board of Trustees moved by local support and statewide momentum 

ANTHONY– The City of Anthony’s Board of Trustees, after hearing testimony from NM Together for Healthcare family leaders who live in Anthony, passed a resolution on Monday in favor of continuing the state’s efforts to shape a healthcare solution that would open up Medicaid for any New Mexican to buy into — regardless of their current Medicaid eligibility.

“All New Mexican families should have health insurance that allows them economic security and good health,” said Vanessa Urbina, Anthony resident and Strong Families New Mexico healthcare advocate. “Unfortunately, many New Mexican families, including over 25,000 Doña Ana County residents, do not have health insurance. Medicaid has worked for my family and many others. We should build on Medicaid by opening it up for everyone.”

Medicaid is a trusted program that provides quality, affordable healthcare to over 100,000 people in Doña Ana County. A well-designed Medicaid Buy-in plan would allow Anthony residents — like those that don’t qualify for Medicaid because of income or citizenship status—to buy into healthcare coverage offered through Medicaid.

Having more New Mexicans covered would reduce uncompensated care costs that are shifted to doctors and hospitals and reduce medical debt among families trying to build financial security.

“For some years, my husband and I could not walk without pain in our hips and waist, but thanks to Medicaid, we received the treatment we needed,” said Ramona Urbina, another a long-time Anthony resident and Strong Families healthcare leader. “Today my husband can work and so can I. We can still pay our bills. Everyone should have the right of good healthcare that they can afford.”

New Mexican leaders like the Urbina family are part of the NM Together for Healthcare campaign, a movement of diverse families and organizations from across the state working to build support for a Medicaid Buy-in plan.

The campaign has been successful in building support among policy makers across the state, and similar resolutions have passed with unanimous support in the City of Sunland Park and Bernalillo and McKinley Counties. The New Mexico House and Senate also passed a Medicaid Buy-in memorial to study a buy-in option with bipartisan support during the 2018 legislative session.

“Medicaid has helped my family improve their quality of life. My father had been running his own business for 20 plus years, and I was able to finish my University Bachelor degree in Public Health because we’ve been able to manage our health, focus on our goals, and go to the hospital without going into debt,” said Vanessa Urbina. “But many families are not eligible for Medicaid due to immigration status, or they just don’t know they are eligible. We are fighting to make sure that every New Mexican family has the chance to be healthy and create opportunities for themselves.”

The City of Anthony’s Board of Trustees will include this resolution in their legislative requests for the upcoming 2019 session and share the resolution with state legislators.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico supported by Strong Families New MexicoPartnership for Community ActionNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email: nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.

Educators, advocates, and tribal leaders propose plan to transform New Mexico’s education system

ALBUQUERQUE—Over a hundred people from across the state, including educators, advocates, tribal leaders, and families, met on Friday to discuss the reforms necessary to provide New Mexican students with the educational opportunities they need to learn and thrive. The coalition agreed upon a comprehensive platform that greatly expands access to culturally and linguistically relevant curricula, enhances teacher supports, and promotes proven, research-based programs such as universal pre-K and K-5 Plus, extends the school year, lowers class size, and increases funding for the At-Risk Index.

“It’s going to take all of us to transform public education in New Mexico,” said Emma Jones, lead organizer at the Learning Alliance. “Parents, students, educators, and community leaders have been working together on solutions to fix our public schools, and we now have a blueprint for real change. This movement will not stop until every student in New Mexico has access to the quality education all our children need and deserve.”

If adopted by the state, the plan would satisfy the requirements of the recent state court ruling on the consolidated lawsuit Yazzie v. State of New Mexico and Martinez v. State of New Mexico brought by families and school districts represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and families represented by MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund).

“The ruling has provided an incredible opportunity to transform our public schools for our children, grandchildren, and generations to come,” said Lauren Winkler, attorney at the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty. “We look forward to working with the state to bring it into compliance with the court’s order. We all want a better education for our children. We hope that we can come to an agreement soon.”

In June, the First Judicial Court declared that New Mexico’s public education system is not sufficient under the state constitution. The court found New Mexico’s education system particularly failed low-income, students of color, Native American, English-language learners, and students with disabilities. The court ordered the state to make sweeping changes to its schools to provide students with the programs and services they need to be college and career ready.

The comprehensive education plan includes significant increases to per pupil funding and teacher pay, time on task in the classroom, access to early childhood education, and culturally and linguistically relevant curriculum.

“We should be leveraging New Mexico’s tremendous assets and diversity,” said Carmen Lopez, executive director of College Horizons. “Our children have such great potential. It’s time to empower them with the educational opportunities they need to succeed.”

Friday’s meeting was the third and largest meeting held by education experts and community leaders since the court decision to discuss how to transform the state’s public education system. The coalition will continue to work together to push for quality education for all New Mexico’s children.

“Education is the single most important investment we can make in New Mexico’s future, not only for positive educational outcomes but for our economy and quality of life for all New Mexicans,” said Veronica Garcia, superintendent of Santa Fe Public Schools, which is a plaintiff in the Yazzie lawsuit. “We have an opportunity to make the  transformative changes to our education system that we all know will help our children learn and thrive. Now politics as usual must end. There can be no more excuses. We must give all children the education they deserve.”

A copy of the platform can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/yazzie-proposed-remedy-platform-2018-09-17/

A summary of the court’s opinion can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/graphic-yazzie-martinez-decision/

More information on the Yazzie/Martinez lawsuit can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/our-work/education/

Bernalillo County champions ‘Medicaid Buy-in’

County Commissioners moved by local and statewide support for innovative solution

BERNALILLO COUNTY–The Bernalillo County Board of Commissioners, after hearing from NM Together for Healthcare leaders from Bernalillo County, passed a resolution today that supports the state’s commitment to exploring an innovative proposal to allow New Mexicans to purchase health insurance coverage through Medicaid — including to those who do not currently qualify for Medicaid or cannot afford to use their current insurance.

“The Medicaid Buy-in plan is important because insurance is very expensive, and all New Mexicans need healthcare coverage,” said Reyna Tovar, a Partnership for Community Action healthcare advocate and Bernalillo County resident. “When my husband was unemployed, we did not have health insurance. When he found a new job, he had to wait six months until he qualified for health insurance through his employer. We did not have coverage during this time because we made too much for Medicaid and Obamacare was too expensive to use.”

Since July, policymakers and community members have been working together to develop this affordable healthcare solution through statewide roundtables and the passing of similar resolutions through local governments like the City of Sunland Park, Doña Ana, and McKinley County. During the 2018 legislative session, Medicaid Buy-in memorials passed with bipartisan support in the New Mexico House and Senate.

Medicaid already covers over 850,000 New Mexicans, including over 228,065 Bernalillo County residents. The plan would expand Medicaid for all New Mexican’s to buy into, providing low-cost coverage for the over 54,000 Bernalillo County residents who are still uninsured. It would also provide affordable health insurance to individuals who are not eligible for Medicaid due to income, immigration status, and for those who have healthcare coverage but cannot afford to use it.

“A Buy-in program would build upon Medicaid’s strong foundation to ensure that families do not have to choose between death and financial ruin,” said Lan Sena, a resident of Bernalillo County and a Strong Families New Mexico healthcare advocate. “My grandfather, an immigrant, could not get Medicaid when he had cancer and died because he could not afford treatment. I have cancer too, and even though I have insurance, I still cannot afford my treatments.”

“I have to choose whether to pay for healthcare insurance or gas for my car,” said Tovar. “Many people don’t qualify for Medicaid or earn slightly too much for Medicaid and cannot afford to pay for healthcare on their own.”

Bernalillo County will share the resolution with state legislators and include this resolution in their legislative requests for the upcoming 2019 session.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico supported by Strong Families New Mexico, Partnership for Community Action, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email: nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.

City of Sunland Park backs ‘Medicaid Buy-in’

City Council moved by local support and statewide momentum

SUNLAND PARK, NEW MEXICO– The City Council of Sunland Park, after hearing testimony from New Mexico Together for Healthcare family leaders who live in Sunland Park, passed a resolution on Tuesday in favor of continuing the state’s efforts to shape a healthcare solution that would open up Medicaid for any New Mexican to buy into — regardless of their current Medicaid eligibility.

“I am very excited about a Medicaid Buy-in option” said Olga Hernandez, a long-time Sunland Park resident and Strong Families New Mexico healthcare advocate. “We need to be looking for ways to provide access to quality healthcare for everyone, like the over 25,000 Doña Ana County residents that don’t have health insurance. Medicaid already serves over 100,000 people in Doña Ana. We should be building on this very good program.”

Since the bipartisan passing of the Medicaid Buy-in memorials in the New Mexico House and Senate during the 2018 legislative session, community members and policymakers have become more interested in this innovative plan.

The McKinley County Commission, with widespread community support, unanimously passed a similar resolution in support of the Medicaid Buy-in this past June.

Allowing Sunland Park residents to buy into Medicaid would provide families without health insurance and undocumented individuals who do not qualify for Medicaid access to an affordable health insurance option. Having more New Mexicans covered would reduce uncompensated care costs that are shifted to taxpayers, doctors, and hospitals, and reduce medical debt among families trying to build financial security.

“My husband was always working and my kids did not have access to medical insurance,” said Olga. “My husband and my three sons came to the city of Sunland Park looking for family wellness. When my husband got very sick with heart problems, he had to stop working and we had no money. We were able to find a solution through Medicaid, but a lot of families like me can’t get it for whatever reason. This has to change.”

The Sunland Park City Council will include this resolution in their legislative requests for the upcoming 2019 session and share the resolution with state legislators.

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New Mexico, Partnership for Community Action, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email: nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.

The City of Sunland Park to consider supporting innovative ‘Medicaid buy-in’ option

Resolution to be voted on at Tuesday’s meeting

SUNLAND PARK, NEW MEXICO–On Tuesday, Doña Ana healthcare leaders in the New Mexico Together for Healthcare campaign will present a resolution to the Sunland Park City Council that supports the state’s exploration of an innovative plan allowing New Mexicans the opportunity to buy-in to the proven, trusted Medicaid healthcare system. The City Council is expected to pass the resolution.

The affordable healthcare option would allow New Mexicans to buy into the Medicaid program for healthcare coverage – even if they are not currently eligible for Medicaid – providing a more affordable, high quality healthcare coverage option.
With more than 25,000 Doña Ana County residents currently without health insurance, a Medicaid buy-in plan would make quality healthcare coverage more accessible for many local residents. Sunland Park residents have reached out to the city councilors and urged them to support the resolution.

WHAT:
The City of Sunland Park will vote on an important resolution supporting the state’s work to explore a Medicaid buy-In plan.

WHEN:
6 p.m., Tuesday, August 21, 2018

WHERE:
Sunland Park City Hall, City Council Chambers, 1000 McNutt Rd, Sunland Park, NM 88063

WHO:
Sunland Park City Council

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NM Together for Healthcare is a statewide, multiracial campaign of families and community organizations working together to strengthen healthcare access in New Mexico, supported by Strong Families New MexicoPartnership for Community ActionNew Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and Health Action New Mexico. For information, visit http://nmtogether4health.org/ or email: nmtogether4healthcare@gmail.com.

Annoucing Sireesha Manne as NMCLP’s executive director

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is pleased to announce Sireesha Manne is taking the helm as our executive director. Sireesha has been serving as interim director since February, and has been an attorney with the Center for the last 10 years. With a strong commitment to New Mexico’s families, she has led and collaborated on successful major campaigns, including to expand healthcare access in the state. She is known for her high-caliber policy and legal advocacy, skill with developing effective strategies, and perseverance in achieving lasting results. She leads with a vision for economic and racial justice centered in our communities, and has over 20 years of experience working with nonprofit organizations.

A message from Sireesha:

The Center stands united with our families and community partners in advancing a bold movement for change in New Mexico. I am very grateful to be part of an exceptional and dedicated team as we enter the next chapter of our history — working together to make healthcare affordable for all, ensure every family has food security, fair wages, and financial well-being, and to pursue wholescale transformation of our public education system so that every child has the opportunity to succeed.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us over the years, to the many collaborators that have helped build the Center – both inside and outside the organization – and to all who have made this transition a success. I look forward to working with you in the months and years to come.

Sireesha Manne
Executive Director

Press conference on Monday on Yazzie/Martinez education ruling

District court rules the State of New Mexico violates students’ constitutional rights

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund) will hold a press conference and a teleconference press briefing Monday to discuss the ruling in their consolidated lawsuit against the State of New Mexico (Yazzie v. State of New Mexico and Martinez v. State of New Mexico). The district court has ruled that the state fails to provide all public school students a sufficient education in violation of the New Mexico Constitution.

PRESS CONFERENCE INFORMATION

WHEN:     
Monday, July 23, 2018 at 10:00 a.m. MT

WHO:      
Center attorneys, MALDEF attorneys, education stakeholders, educators, parents, and students

WHERE:    
Washington Middle School Park
Northwest corner of Park SW and 10th Street SW
Albuquerque, NM 87102
See map at: https://goo.gl/maps/yLtVzHEpeJw

Join the press conference on Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/nmcenteronlawandpoverty/

TELECONFERENCE INFORMATION

WHEN:      
Monday, July 23, 2018 at 11:30 a.m. MT

WHO:     
Gail Evans, lead counsel, the Center
Preston Sanchez, attorney, the Center
Ernest Herrera, staff attorney, MALDEF
E. Martin Estrada, partner at Munger, Tolles & Olsen LLP and co-counsel to MALDEF
Veronica Garcia, superintendent, Santa Fe Public Schools

DIAL-IN:
877-830-2589 or 785-424-1736
Conference ID: New Mexico

WHY:         
The district court in Santa Fe has ruled that the state is responsible for failing to provide adequate educational opportunities to all public school children. The lawsuit brought by New Mexican families and six school districts asserts that the State of New Mexico’s inadequate funding of public schools and lack of necessary oversight deprives children – particularly low-income, Native American and English language learner students – of the education necessary to be ready for college, career, and civic life.

The ruling can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/order-decison-2018-07-20/

Judge rules New Mexico violates public school students’ constitutional right to sufficient educational opportunities

SANTA FE, NM – July 20, 2018 – A state court ruled today that New Mexico’s education system violates the state constitution because it fails to provide students a sufficient public education.

Families and school districts in the consolidated lawsuit Yazzie v. State of New Mexico and Martinez v. State of New Mexico sued the state for failing to provide public school students with a sufficient education as mandated by the state’s constitution. The lawsuit challenged the state’s arbitrary and inadequate funding of public schools as well as its failure to provide students with the programs and services needed to be college, career and civic ready. It alleged that the lack of necessary monitoring and oversight deprived students of the resources and services they need to succeed—particularly low-income, students of color, including Native American, English-language learners, and students with disabilities.

The plaintiffs are represented by the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty (the Center) and MALDEF (Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund).

“We are extremely gratified that the court has ruled in favor of children and families and recognizes the State’s failure to provide all of New Mexico’s public school students a sufficient education,” said Ernest Herrera, a MALDEF staff attorney. “Now, the State can no longer deny its legal responsibility to all New Mexico’s students.”

In her ruling, First Judicial District Court Judge Sarah Singleton affirmed the plaintiffs’ claims, stating:

“Therefore, the Defendants will be given until April 15, 2019, to take immediate steps to ensure that New Mexico schools have the resources necessary to give at-risk students the opportunity to obtain a uniform and sufficient education that prepares them for college and career. Reforms to the current system of financing public education and managing schools should address the shortcomings of the current system by ensuring, as a part of that process, that every public school in New Mexico would have the resources necessary for providing the opportunity for a sufficient education for all at-risk students.”

Gail Evans, lead counsel on the case for the Center, shared, “We owe it to the hundreds of thousands of children across New Mexico, in this generation and the next, to ensure the court’s ruling is implemented without delay. Now is the opportunity to transform public schools—the state knows what it needs to make available to our students: a quality education that is culturally and linguistically responsive and the necessary resources to make opportunities possible for all children who need them.”

During the eight-week trial, which began in June 2017, educational experts provided the Court testimony about the needs of New Mexico students and the systemic deficiencies undermining student success. Many school superintendents testified that their districts lack resources, quality programs, and state support, which also includes collaboration between districts and tribal communities.

“I just want my son to be prepared for life, to get a good job, learn strong ethics, and get life skills,” said James Martinez, a plaintiff in the Yazzie case. “My son just tested as gifted, but his school doesn’t have the curriculum or resources to push him to his full potential. The kids who are falling behind have it much worse. All kids should have the same opportunity to learn, progress, and succeed. The only way we can do that is by fixing our public schools and giving all kids a chance.”

Seventy percent of New Mexico students cannot read or write at grade level, 80 percent cannot do math at grade level and graduation rates are among the lowest in the nation, according to the New Mexico Public Education Department. Witnesses also testified that the state fails to address the needs of English-language learners by failing to provide sufficient access to quality bilingual/multicultural education programs.

During the trial, the State’s experts conceded that students at high-poverty schools have less access to effective teachers, yet the State has failed to provide adequate resources to improve teacher training, compensation, recruitment and retention.

The Martinez lawsuit was brought on behalf of parents and public school children from Española, Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Zuni, Magdalena, Las Cruces and Gadsden, including students who are English-language learners, Native American, economically disadvantaged or disabled. It was filed in April 2014 by MALDEF following extensive discussions with community groups, local leaders, and parents in New Mexico concerning chronic achievement gaps on standardized tests and other systemic failures. The state sought to dismiss the case but the court in Martinez denied the request, and ruled for the first time in New Mexico’s history that education is a fundamental right under the state constitution.

The Center’s Yazzie lawsuit was filed in March 2014 on behalf of a group of families and school districts including Gallup-McKinley, Rio Rancho, Santa Fe, Cuba, Moriarty/Edgewood, and Lake Arthur. The families represented have children who are English-language learners, Native American, Hispanic, low-income and have been negatively impacted by the lack of resources provided to New Mexico public schools.

A copy of the decision can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/order-decison-2018-07-20/

Indian Affairs Committee asks for FID report on law capping store front loans  

CHAMA—At a legislative hearing in Chama today, the New Mexico Indian Affairs Committee passed a resolution asking the Financial Institutions Division to report on how it is enforcing a new law that caps interest rates on small loans and to provide data collected from lenders on the loan products they sell. The FID report is due for presentation to the committee later this fall.

“All New Mexicans deserve access to fair and transparent loans under reasonable terms, but generations of low-income families and Native American communities have been aggressively targeted by unscrupulous store front lenders,” said Lindsay Cutler, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “The FID has a duty to enforce the new law and protect families from unfair lending practices. The new law went into effect in January, but FID still hasn’t updated its regulations to reflect the new standards. Without information on FID enforcement, we don’t have a clear picture of how the small loan industry is doing business with New Mexico families and how the new law is affecting New Mexicans. We’re grateful that the Indian Affairs Committee has asked the FID to report on its enforcement efforts.”

Before passage of HB 347 in the 2017 legislative session, most small loans were unregulated and borrowers were frequently charged interest rates of 300 percent APR or more. Reforms to the Small Loan Act are now in effect, capping interest rates at 175 percent APR and eliminating traditional short term payday and title loans. The new law requires lenders to provide clear information about the costs of loans, allows borrowers to develop a credit history when they make payments on small-dollar loans, and sets minimum contract terms for small loans, including at least four payments and 120 days to pay off most loans. Refund anticipation loans are exempt from those requirements.

The FID proposed regulations to implement HB 347 in late February 2018 to eliminate inconsistencies between the new law and the old payday lending regulations. Loan renewals, however, are not addressed by the FID’s proposed regulations. This loophole could leave borrowers vulnerable to interest rates and fees that are now illegal under the law for new loans. The Center urges the FID to close this loophole by clarifying that renewals are subject to the law’s fee limit, interest rate cap, and payment schedule requirements for new loans.

“Passing HB 347 was a necessary first step, but enforcing regulation and compliance with the law is the critical next step in protecting our families and ensuring that all New Mexicans have equal access to affordable loans and protection from predatory lending practices,” said Michael Barrio, Director of Advocacy for Prosperity Works. “The data and reporting transparency we seek is necessary to close loopholes that could render HB 347 ineffective, and to augment existing consumer protections in New Mexico. Our focus, now, is on creating transparency and eliminating loopholes that can be used to continue exploiting hard-working New Mexicans. We’re making progress every day.”

The FID’s proposed regulations can be found here: www.rld.state.nm.us/financialinstitutions/

The Center’s comments on the proposed regulations can be found here: https://wp.me/a7pqlk-10H

A factsheet on regulations the FID should enact to enforce the small loans act can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/fact-sheet-fid-must-enact-regulations-to-enforce-the-small-loans-act-2018-07/

Senate farm bill protects New Mexico families’ access to SNAP  

ALBUQUERQUE— On Thursday, the U.S. Senate passed its farm bill, which protects and strengthens the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), by an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote of 86-11. The Senate’s bill is in stark contrast to the partisan House farm bill narrowly passed last week, which if passed, would restrict food assistance to millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands New Mexicans through cuts and harmful changes to SNAP.

The House and Senate will now need to negotiate a final farm bill before sending it to the White House for President Trump’s signature.

“The Senate farm bill strengthens SNAP and protects millions of Americans’ access to healthy food. This is great news for New Mexico where SNAP is of particular importance. Over 450,000 New Mexicans rely on SNAP to put food on the table, including 40 percent of the state’s young children,” said Maria Griego, supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “Congress should use the Senate farm bill as a basis for its final legislation. We urge our elected leaders to negotiate a final, bi-partisan bill that remains faithful to the Senate’s approach. We need a farm bill that grows income and employment opportunities for all Americans and bolsters, not weakens our country’s most effective anti-hunger program.”

The Senate bill would provide for modest improvements to SNAP’s operations and administration. It also would expand the 2014 farm bill’s pilot program to test new approaches to job training and other employment-related activities for SNAP participants.

Should a farm bill that is closer to the House’s version pass, up to 121,000 New Mexicans would face termination of SNAP, while tens of thousands of children and other family members would face reduced benefits for up to three years.

For more information on the House version of the 2018 farm bill and how the SNAP cuts would impact New Mexico, go to:  http://nmpovertylaw.org/2018/04/proposed-cuts-to-snap-in-house-farm-bill-would-take-food-off-the-table-for-new-mexico-families/

For more information on SNAP in New Mexico, go to: http://nmpovertylaw.org/proposed-budget-will-increase-hunger-and-inequality-in-nm-february-2018/