New Study Shows Devastating Consequences for New Mexico under Latest Healthcare Bill

New Mexico will be forced to make tough choices under the Republican healthcare bill in Congress that slashes federal funding for Medicaid. A new study shows that the bill’s plans to reduce federal Medicaid funding would require the state to come up with an additional $427 million annually to maintain healthcare coverage for its 900,000 residents enrolled in Medicaid. If it can’t or won’t, more than 250,000 New Mexicans could lose their coverage and become uninsured.

The study, released today, was conducted by Dr. Kelly O’Donnell, an economist with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation at UNM and is available here.

The bill drastically lowers the federal funding match for Medicaid expansion adults and permanently caps funding on the entire program, resulting in a loss of $11.4 billion in federal revenues and more than 30,000 jobs by 2026. It’s an understatement to say that this would devastate New Mexico’s healthcare system and economy.

The bill reneges on the federal government’s long-standing commitment to funding Medicaid. And President Trump promised on the campaign trail that he would not cut Medicaid, yet his administration has revived negotiations for the bill after it failed to garner enough votes among House Republicans last month. The latest proposal, in addition to decimating Medicaid funding, would also remove important consumer protections like allowing insurance companies to charge higher rates for people with pre-existing conditions and eliminating coverage of essential services like mental health and maternity care.

Congressman Pearce has not taken a position on the legislation. He should take a look at this study because the consequences for New Mexico will be drastic.

Call Congressman Pearce to Vote NO on Healthcare Bill

STOP the Attack on New Mexico’s Healthcare System! Ask Congressman Pearce to Vote NO Against the Healthcare Repeal Bill

Friends, Congress is about to make a critical vote on healthcare — This Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote on the Republican bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act. This bill recklessly endangers New Mexico’s healthcare system by making it even more expensive for middle class and working families to afford private healthcare coverage and by dismantling Medicaid, which covers more than 900,000 New Mexicans.

  • More than 145,000 New Mexicans will lose their healthcare coverage – including 75,000 in Congressman Pearce’s district alone mostly due to massive cuts to Medicaid, including rolling back the Medicaid Expansion and cutting federal funding support for Medicaid.
  • Thousands of jobs could be lost statewide! Medicaid directly supports over 50,000 jobs in New Mexico while also providing a major payment source for our hospitals, clinics and nursing homes.
  • The bill caps Medicaid funding, which will force our state to ration care or make deep cuts to healthcare coverage for New Mexicans who need it the most – children, the elderly, people with disabilities and low-income adults.
  • The bill takes healthcare away from the poor while giving tax breaks to the rich, providing $275 billion in tax cuts to the wealthiest households over the next ten years.

Congressman Pearce MUST hear from you TODAY! Please call his D.C. office at (202) 225-2365 and ask him to take a stand to protect our healthcare by voting NO for the healthcare repeal bill. The call will only take a minute.

ACTION ALERT: Ask New Mexico’s Leaders to Stand Up for our Healthcare

We’ve all been working hard to build a great healthcare system for New Mexicans. Along the way, we have seen significant gains for our state for which we are thankful.

  • 95% of our children in New Mexico have healthcare coverage now, mostly because of Medicaid.
  • Over 250,000 adults gained coverage from the Medicaid Expansion in 2014.
  • Medicaid supports over 50,000 jobs in our healthcare sector and keeps clinics, hospitals and caregiving agencies open in our state.
  • • Medicaid saves costs for everyone by covering uninsured people and offering preventive and life-saving care.

As we move forward, we cannot afford to lose our gains. We lost over $330 million for healthcare and over 3,000 jobs this year for failing to adequately fund Medicaid. Now with uncertainty about healthcare at the national level, we must work harder than ever to protect and strengthen our healthcare.

Please call our leaders and ask them to fully fund Medicaid. It will only take a few minutes. Let them know why you are thankful for Medicaid.

Governor Susana Martinez – (505) 476-2200
Senator John Arthur Smith, Chair of Legislative Finance Committee – (575) 546-4979
Representative Patty Lundstrom, Member of Legislative Finance Committee – (505) 722-2980

Please call this week – before December 9th. The Legislative Finance Committee and the Executive branch are putting together state budget proposals for next year. It’s important these individuals hear from you this week.

Op-Ed: Underfunding Medicaid is a Foolish Decision

shutterstock baby with doctor for website -2015-12-17by Abuko Estrada & Sireesha Manne

Originally published in the Albuquerque Journal, September 26, 2016. https://www.abqjournal.com/852766/underfunding-medicaid-is-a-foolish-decision.html

As taxpayers, we expect that when government spends our money it will be leveraged toward the best investments that provide the most benefits to our state.

Currently, New Mexico receives four dollars in federal funds for every state dollar invested in Medicaid. This money goes directly into patient care and supports over 50,000 mostly private-sector jobs in the state.

Rather than maximizing this $4 to $1 return on investment, New Mexico underfunded the Medicaid budget in the 2016 legislative session.

For fiscal year 2017, New Mexico is losing over $265 million in federal matching funds for Medicaid by failing to come up with $67 million to meet Medicaid’s minimum budget needs. Our health care system is taking a massive financial loss of over $330 million this year — or nearly $1 million a day!

This is a budgeting disaster for New Mexico that is expected to result in thousands of jobs being lost and, worse yet, a reduction in care to patients. Health care had been one of the only growing job sectors in the state because of the expansion of Medicaid that has added over 4,800 jobs in 2014 alone. However, due to budget shortfalls, the state has decided to reduce Medicaid payment levels for hospitals, doctors and other medical practitioners.

In response, health care providers have issued serious warnings that the low Medicaid rates will force them to downsize staff and potentially even close entire facilities.

The decision to cut Medicaid is self-defeating because New Mexico desperately needs jobs and a stronger health care system.

Nearly every county in the state – 32 out of 33 counties – has shortages for primary care, dental care and mental health care. The problems are most severe for patients in rural areas, where over 30 percent of residents live.

A prime example of health care workforce shortages is the closing of the obstetrics department at Alta Vista Regional Hospital in Las Vegas, N.M. Since 2010, three other hospitals have ceased their obstetric services, forcing expectant mothers to travel unreasonable distances for prenatal care.

Medicaid patients face the most serious consequences of these shortages. The Legislative Finance Committee recently found that up to half of providers in some areas in New Mexico are refusing to take new Medicaid patients.

Another report has found that a quarter of Dona Aña County residents needing hospitalization are going to Texas to get services. However, as illustrated in a recent news article, many doctors in Texas now refuse to see these patients because our state’s Medicaid reimbursement rates are too low.

This is just the beginning.

Medicaid provides health care coverage to two out of three children in New Mexico, as well as seniors, people with disabilities and low-income families. However, due to Medicaid budget shortfalls, the state next plans to cut health care benefits and charge higher patient fees.

Studies have shown that these changes are likely to result in massive losses of coverage for low-income families and will prevent patients from accessing needed services, only deepening New Mexico’s health care crisis.

New Mexico needs to responsibly maximize Medicaid matching funds. The first step is to fix the state’s revenue system. New Mexico is losing needed dollars to tax cuts and loopholes created in the last 15 years for large corporations and the highest-income earners, which have not proven to produce jobs or benefit the state.

There are several ways to raise revenues without hurting working families, such as freezing corporate tax rates at their current levels, which are now on par with other states and further reductions are not needed, taxing capital gains and investment income at the same rate as earned income and targeting products that are undertaxed and that are not necessities, such as new vehicles, alcohol and tobacco.

By not acting, New Mexico is losing precious resources that our state needs to spur job growth and support our health care infrastructure. Let’s put our money into our wisest investments – Medicaid is certainly one of the best.

Op-Ed: State’s decision to cut Medicaid is self-defeating

by Abuko Estrada and Sireesha Manne

Originally published September 19, 2016, NMPolitics.net http://nmpolitics.net/index/2016/09/states-decision-to-cut-medicaid-is-self-defeating/

COMMENTARY: As taxpayers, we expect that when government spends our money it will be leveraged toward the best investments that provide the most benefits to our state. Currently, New Mexico receives four dollars in federal funds for every state dollar invested in Medicaid. This money goes directly into patient care and supports over 50,000 jobs in the state, mostly in the private sector.

Rather than maximizing this $4-to-$1 return on investment, New Mexico underfunded the Medicaid budget in the 2016 legislative session.

For fiscal year 2017, New Mexico is losing over $265 million in federal matching funds for Medicaid by failing to come up with $67 million to meet Medicaid’s minimum budget needs. Our health-care system is taking a massive financial loss of over $330 million this year – or nearly $1 million a day!

This is a budgeting disaster for New Mexico that is expected to result in thousands of jobs being lost and, worse yet, a reduction in care to patients. Health care had been one of the only growing job sectors in the state because of the expansion of Medicaid, which added over 4,800 jobs in 2014 alone.

However, due to budget shortfalls, the state has decided to reduce Medicaid payment levels for hospitals, doctors and other medical practitioners. In response, health-care providers have issued serious warnings that the low Medicaid rates will force them to downsize staff and potentially even close entire facilities.

The decision to cut Medicaid is self-defeating because New Mexico desperately needs jobs and a stronger health-care system. Nearly every county in the state – 32 out of 33 counties – have shortages for primary care, dental care, and mental health care. The problems are most severe for patients in rural areas, where over 30 percent of residents live.

A prime example of health-care workforce shortages is the closing of the obstetrics department at Alta Vista Regional Hospital in Las Vegas. Since 2010, three other hospitals have ceased their obstetric services, forcing expectant mothers to travel unreasonable distances for prenatal care.

Medicaid patients face the most serious consequences of these shortages. The Legislative Finance Committee recently found that up to half of providers in some areas in New Mexico are refusing to take new Medicaid patients.

Another report has found that a quarter of Dona Aña County residents needing hospitalization are going to Texas to get services. However, as illustrated in a recent news article, many doctors in Texas are now refusing to see these patients because our state’s Medicaid reimbursement rates are too low.

This is just the beginning. Medicaid provides health-care coverage to two out of three children in New Mexico, as well as seniors, people with disabilities and low-income families. However, due to Medicaid budget shortfalls, the state next plans to cut health-care benefits and charge higher patient fees.

Studies have shown that these changes are likely to result in massive losses of coverage for low-income families and will prevent patients from accessing needed services, only deepening New Mexico’s health-care crisis.

New Mexico needs to responsibly maximize Medicaid matching funds. The first step is to fix the state’s revenue system. New Mexico is losing needed dollars to tax cuts and loopholes created in the last 15 years for large corporations and the highest income earners, which have not proven to produce jobs or benefit the state.

There are several ways to raise revenues without hurting working families, such as freezing corporate tax rates at their current levels, which are now on par with other states and further reductions are not needed; taxing capital gains and investment income at the same rate as earned income; and targeting products that are being under-taxed and that are not necessities, such as new vehicles, alcohol and tobacco.

By not acting, New Mexico is losing precious resources that our state needs to spur job growth and support our health-care infrastructure. Let’s put our money into our wisest investments – Medicaid is certainly one of the best.

Abuko Estrada and Sireesha Manne are attorneys with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

Action Alert: Stop Damaging Cuts to Medicaid!

New Mexico’s healthcare system is facing a crisis due to budget cuts for Medicaid. Over 875,000 people in our state get healthcare coverage through Medicaid and the program supports over 50,000 jobs in New Mexico.

Medicaid lost significant federal match funds this year – $4 for every $1 in state funding cuts – losing over $265 million in federal funds that would have gone into our economy to support patient care and thousands of jobs. Soon, the Governor and Legislature will be going into a special session to cut even more of the state budget due to revenue shortfalls.

The budget shortfalls have already cut Medicaid to the bone – resulting in lower payments to healthcare providers that are expected to cause job loss, intensify workforce shortages and make it even harder for Medicaid patients to find doctors and services. The next step will be to begin cutting Medicaid healthcare benefits and charge higher fees for low-income patients – changes that will cause people to lose coverage and reduce access to care.

The Governor and these legislators below are making critical decisions about the budget and MUST hear from you by next Thursday, September 22. Please call them todayThis will only take 5 minutes. For each call, leave a short message with the Governor’s staff, the legislators or a voicemail that includes your name, phone number, and an ask to not cut Medicaid.

Thank you!


Name Phone Number
Governor Martinez (505) 476-2200
Rep. Larry Larrañaga ‪(505) 821-4948
Rep. Jason Harper ‪(505) 554-7970
Rep. Patricia Lundstrom ‪(505) 722-2980
Sen. John Arthur Smith (575) 546-8546
Sen. Stuart Ingle (575) 356-3088

Editorial: Shortchanging the Poor

Republished from the Las Vegas Optic. See the original column here.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 6:30 pm (Updated: July 19, 6:42 pm)

U.S. Magistrate Judge Carmen Garza has concluded that the New Mexico Human Services Department should have someone looking over its shoulder to help ensure that it complies with court orders and federal law in the administration of federally funded benefits.

According to The Associated Press, Garza is also recommending a contempt finding against the agency, which oversees the distribution of federal food aid and Medicaid health care benefits to the poor.

To be sure, those are merely proposals at this point; the department has 14 days to file its objections, and the department is already saying that it doesn’t agree with everything in the judge’s decision.

Still, it’s unfortunate — though not surprising — that such extreme measures are necessary to get the department to follow the law and to finally comply with court orders that have gone unfulfilled.

The harsh measures being recommended are not surprising because of the striking testimony presented during the court proceedings in the case.

“Caseworkers’ sworn testimony that they were instructed by managers to fraudulently alter applicant information has essentially not been refuted,” Garza said. According to The Associated Press, Garza also noted that managers overseeing supplemental nutrition benefits invoked their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination during the proceedings.

The Human Services Department’s office of inspector general and the U.S. Department of Agriculture are investigating that part of the case.

We don’t doubt that the state Human Services Department has a difficult job with tight deadlines and large caseloads.

But it’s also important to remember that the agency exists to serve as a safety net for our state’s most vulnerable residents.

The aid this agency provides helps our state’s poor put food on the table for their families and get medical care for them. Playing games with that aid is unconscionable and wrong.

If it takes a special master looking over the agency’s shoulder to force it to do the right thing, then so be it.

According to The Associated Press, the special master would have expertise in determining eligibility for Medicaid and food aid. That individual would also be knowledgeable with the organizational and computer systems used to manage the state’s caseload.

The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, which brought forth the federal lawsuit on behalf of aid beneficiaries, was pleased with Garza’s decision, which was issued Monday.

“The things we have been asking for are very simple,” attorney Sovereign Hager told AP. “Train your workers on what the law requires, make sure the IT system does what it’s supposed to, make sure notices are intelligible and make sense.”

That seems reasonable to us.

Medicaid Expansion Resulting in Job Growth and State Savings

BBER logoA new report finds that the Medicaid Expansion has significantly increased jobs and revenues in New Mexico, generating a surplus that covers the cost of expansion itself. The report by Dr. Lee Reynis, economist at University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, updates prior research from 2012 and details the economic and fiscal impact of Medicaid expansion.

Over 200,000 adults in New Mexico gained healthcare coverage through Medicaid when the program was expanded under the Affordable Care Act. The federal government is paying for the entire cost of Medicaid expansion until this year when the contribution gradually steps down to 90 percent by the year 2020, with the state responsible for paying the 10 percent remainder of costs. The federal share totals over $11 billion between 2014 to 2021.

The report finds that the additional economic activity associated with the influx of federal dollars from Medicaid Expansion generates significant revenues from insurance premium taxes, gross receipts taxes, and income taxes as well as savings from programs no longer needed, including the State Coverage Insurance program. Additionally, the number of adults who are uninsured has dropped dramatically reducing uncompensated care costs for providers. From this activity, the State is expected to see a surplus of over $300 million dollars from Medicaid expansion between fiscal years 2014-2021.

Overall, the healthcare sector is leading job growth in New Mexico, adding over 1,500 new jobs in 2014 alone. Income and earnings have also risen for the healthcare workforce, with Medicaid accounting for 25% to 46% of the total increases in personal income in New Mexico. For a state historically underserved with healthcare providers, the Medicaid Expansion is providing funding to help grow our health care workforce and is encouraging investment in hospitals and treatment facilities with an emphasis on quality improvement.

News about the impact of Medicaid expansion comes at a time when New Mexico’s legislature is determining next year’s budget for Medicaid. Revenue forecasts have worsened due to dropping oil prices. Abuko D. Estrada, staff attorney for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, says, “Medicaid is one of the best investments our state leaders can make. The program is paying for itself and is a boon for our economy, while providing quality health care coverage for New Mexicans in these tough times.”

Report-UNM BBER-Medicaid Economic and Fiscal Impacts-2016-02-03
Press Release-NMCLP-BBER Medicaid Expansion Report-2016-02-03
Learn more about the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research here.

Medicaid a Bright Spot in a Dismal Economy

Republished with permission by the New Mexico Political Report. To see the original article, follow: http://nmpoliticalreport.com/20757/medicaid-a-bright-spot-in-a-dismal-economy/

Abuko-2015-09-23By Abuko Estrada, Healthcare Staff Attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

Since 2008, it has been gloomy in New Mexico. Our state is still recovering from the Great Recession. Our job growth has been among the worst in the nation, leaving us well short of pre-recession job levels. We are the only state in the nation where more people are moving out than moving in.

Our economic forecast still looks dismal.

There has, however, been one ray of sunshine–our healthcare sector is growing and over two hundred thousand New Mexicans have financial relief due to Medicaid expansion.

Now that we finally see a bright spot, let’s not ruin a good thing.

When New Mexico expanded Medicaid in 2014, our state had many reasons to celebrate. Polls showed overwhelming public support for Medicaid, with most voters in favor of Medicaid expansion and opposed to making cuts to the program.

The skyrocketing uninsured rate was taking its toll, leaving people without treatment or forcing families into medical debt and even bankruptcy. Medicaid expansion has meant that over 220,000 more New Mexican adults have health care coverage. This expansion of adult coverage also helped capture more uninsured children, reducing that rate by almost 16 percent during the first year alone.

New Mexicans knew that Medicaid expansion would boost job growth. In fact, the health care industry is driving job growth for our state. According to the Legislative Council Service, health care jobs have accounted for 56 percent of the new jobs over the last year.

We knew that Medicaid expansion would reduce costs for hospitals and healthcare providers, allowing them to invest in new facilities and their workforce. New Mexico’s 28 hospitals have already seen a 30 percent drop in the uncompensated care of uninsured patients from 2014. Our federally-qualified health centers, which have generally operated under budget deficits due to uncompensated care, had net income of $1.8 million dollars in fiscal year 2014. According to the New Mexico Primary Care Association, the better financial picture will allow the health centers to raise provider pay and increase capacity around the state.

We knew that Medicaid expansion would lead to economic relief for our families. In the past, people were routinely sent to collections for medical bills they could not pay. Healthcare coverage through Medicaid gives families more disposable income and the ability to build assets rather than struggle with debt. Every taxpayer also paid for state and county funds for hospitals to treat uninsured patients.

Finally, we knew that Medicaid expansion would be good for state revenue by injecting over $1 billion non-state dollars into the economy each year, primarily into the private sector, and increasing insurance taxes. In fiscal year 2014, The Department of Finance and Administration says New Mexico collected $115 million in insurance taxes. Economists with the Legislative Finance Committee estimate that number will grow to $247 million dollars by 2020.

For the first three years of expansion, we got all of these benefits at no cost to the state. In 2017, we will only pay 5 cents on the dollar, while the federal government takes on 95 percent of costs. After 2020, we will pay no more than one dime for every dollar to maintain these benefits. The insurance tax on Medicaid managed care companies retrieves 4 of these cents – canceling out nearly all of the State’s costs in upcoming years.

Still, some policymakers question the value of expansion and would like to cut support for the program.

It would be wrong to reverse course now and dump one of New Mexico’s best investments. Our state could lose hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars in economic activity.

Every dollar lost would damage our health care industry and workforce, stunting the driving sector for our job growth. Halting this growth could prove disastrous for our rural areas, which already face provider shortages. It would become more difficult to attract providers and build capacity.

New Mexico can only move forward if we capitalize on what we have. When the weather is finally breaking, let’s not take it for granted. By making the right choice to fully fund and support Medicaid, we can invest in a brighter future.

Celebrate 50 Years of Medicare & Medicaid!

You’re invited to the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Medicare & Medicaid. These programs have improved the lives of New Mexicans for half a century and we want you to be there to look forward to 50 more years of success. The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and the Health Care for All Coalition will be celebrating at Explora on July 30th from 4pm-6pm.
Admission is free starting at 1pm, so please feel free to come a few hours early to enjoy the museum with friends and family. Food, beverages, and entertainment will be provided.

Please RSVP with the following link: EventBrite

For more about the anniversary of Medicare & Medicaid, visit the website of the National Academy of Social Insurance, the Kaiser Family Foundation, or the Department of Health and Human Services.