Proposed Medicaid cuts would force New Mexicans to go without healthcare

ALBUQUERQUE—New Mexico’s Human Services Department proposed cuts to Medicaid would hurt families and violate federal law, said the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty in comments submitted yesterday on the department’s Centennial Care 2.0 waiver proposal.

“Everyone needs access to healthcare coverage,” said William Townley, an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “But HSD’s proposed cuts to Medicaid would force many New Mexican families to go into debt or simply drop coverage. That’s bad news for all of us. We know that when people go without healthcare, it’s much harder for them to maintain their financial stability, be productive in the workforce, or continue their education.”

HSD’s proposal imposes new patient premiums on low-income adults living just above the poverty line. Research has shown that these fees will cause thousands of New Mexicans to lose healthcare coverage. For many low-income families, the proposed increase to $10 a month is prohibitive and would force them to choose between healthcare and other necessities like food, housing, and transportation.

Hospital bills are especially devastating for families on limited income, often ranging from $10,000 to over $100,000. Yet, HSD’s proposed cuts would also phase-out retroactive coverage, which pays for a Medicaid eligible person’s hospital and medical bills incurred up to three months before signing up for Medicaid. Phasing out retroactive coverage would put New Mexico’s families in jeopardy of severe medical debt and force healthcare providers to shoulder increased uncompensated care costs.

New Mexicans have voiced overwhelming opposition to HSD’s proposed cuts to Medicaid. Throughout the entire Centennial Care 2.0 waiver application process, patients, providers, stakeholders, researchers, advocates and community members were nearly unanimously opposed to these changes.

HSD’s proposed Medicaid cuts also violate federal law. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) can only approve waivers of federal Medicaid requirements that are listed under Section 1115 of the Medicaid Act. Provisions that govern cost-sharing, such as premiums, and retroactive coverage are outside of Section 1115, meaning CMS lacks legal authority to waive such requirements. CMS has not yet approved the regulatory changes proposed in HSD’s new regulations.

The Center’s comments can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/NMCLP-Comment-on-HSDs-Medicaid-Cuts2018-10-25.pdf

 

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The New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty is dedicated to advancing economic and social justice through education, advocacy, and litigation. We work with low-income New Mexicans to improve living conditions, increase opportunities, and protect the rights of people living in poverty.

 

HSD to Hold Hearing on Medicaid Cuts Wednesday

SANTA FE—New Mexico’s Human Services Department will hold a hearing on the serious cuts the Medicaid program faces in the Centennial Care 2.0 waiver proposal on Wednesday, October 24 in Santa Fe.

The waiver proposal imposes new excessive patient premiums on low-income adults living just above the poverty line. These fees will cause thousands of New Mexicans to lose healthcare coverage. The proposal would also phase out retroactive coverage, which is a protection that pays for a Medicaid eligible person’s hospital and medical bills incurred up to three months before signing up for Medicaid. Phasing out retroactive coverage would put New Mexico’s families in jeopardy of severe medical debt and leave healthcare providers with additional uncompensated care costs.

WHAT:
HSD Hearing on the Centennial Care 2.0 Waiver Proposal

WHEN:
9:00 a.m -12:00 p.m., October 24, 2018

WHERE:     
Rio Grande Conference Room, Toney Anaya Building, 2550 Cerrillos Rd, Santa Fe, NM 87505

WHO:
William Townley, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and other groups against the waiver
HSD staff
Public Comment

McKinley County Commission unanimously supports innovative ‘Medicaid buy-in’

Community need and widespread support inspired commission

GALLUP–The McKinley County Commission, after hearing powerful community testimony, on Tuesday unanimously passed a resolution in support of the state’s work to develop and implement an innovative plan to allow New Mexicans the opportunity to buy-in to the proven, trusted Medicaid healthcare system.

“With more than 16,000 McKinley residents still uninsured,” said Christopher Hudson from the McKinley Communities Health Alliance “We need to support innovative ideas that will help everyone in our communities get the health care they need. A Medicaid buy-in program is a great option to make quality care affordable and accessible.”

In the 2018 Legislative Session, both the House and the Senate passed memorials calling for the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee to explore the policy and fiscal implications of offering a Medicaid Buy-in plan to New Mexico residents.

By allowing McKinley County residents to buy-in to Medicaid for their health coverage, a state program would reduce uncompensated care for doctors and hospitals and would also save much-needed funding in the county’s indigent care funds.

“I know how hard it can be to access health care,” said McKinley County resident and Strong Families New Mexico healthcare advocate Althea Yazzie. “I’ve had to fight with insurance providers to get help to pay for my medications, my transportation, and my rheumatologist appointments. Being sick is hard. Getting better shouldn’t be. I’m proud of our county for supporting Medicaid buy-in.”

In addition to sharing the resolution with legislators to show the county’s support for a Medicaid buy-in plan, the resolution also adds Medicaid buy-in to McKinley County’s legislative priorities, meaning the county will work directly with legislators to advance the program.

Court finds management problems prevent HSD from fixing food and medical benefits applications

ALBUQUERQUE—A federal court found that lack of leadership and accountability in the New Mexico Human Services Department prevents it from fixing entrenched problems in food and medical benefit administration.

In a ruling issued late yesterday, U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth Gonzales set a series of deadlines for HSD compliance with court ordered reforms and required the appointment of knowledgeable subject matter experts in supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), Medicaid, and eligibility for families that include immigrants in the department’s Income Support Division.

“We’re very hopeful that this ruling will lead to much needed changes in the department’s leadership,” said Sovereign Hager, managing attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “For there to be permanent improvement in administration, the Human Services Department leadership must have expertise and management abilities that give front line workers the tools they need to ensure New Mexicans can get food and medical assistance. HSD is still not processing applications in time, leaving too many children and families unable to access basic necessities.”

In September 2016, Judge Gonzales held the HSD Secretary Brent Earnest in contempt for failing to remove barriers to assistance for eligible families. The court appointed a Special Master to monitor and make recommendations to the department.

Despite court orders and the expertise provided by the Special Master, HSD continues to improperly deny eligible New Mexicans food and medical assistance and does not provide timely information about case decisions. Each month the department develops a backlog of unprocessed cases, a large share of phone calls go unanswered, and workers are not accurately trained on the requirements for processing food and medical assistance applications.

In his ruling yesterday, the judge agreed with the Special Master’s January 2018 report finding that the current HSD management team lacks the sufficient “knowledge, skills, and abilities” necessary to ensure families receive information about their cases and get the assistance they need to eat and see the doctor.

The judge also found that the Income Support Division Director demonstrated “woefully” little knowledge of the court ordered changes to improve processing food and Medicaid applications despite the significant impact they had on the division’s mission and work.

The judge was also troubled by the ISD Director’s lack of knowledge of standard memoranda issued by her division, training procedures, and her admitted failure to speak with the Regional Operations Managers on how to address improving timeliness and efficiency.

“We hope the state will make the management changes that will end the need for such extensive oversight through the courts,” said Hager. “New Mexicans who are going through significant hardships shouldn’t have to fight with the state to get the food and medical care they need.”

Center attorneys working on the Deborah Hatten Gonzales v. Brent Earnest lawsuit include Sovereign Hager, Gail Evans, and Maria Griego. Civil rights attorney, Daniel Yohalem is lead counsel on the case.

The court’s ruling can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Doc.-836-Memorandum-Opinion-and-Order-2018-04-05-00000003.pdf

Federal Court to hear Special Master’s findings on illegal barriers to food and medical assistance on Thursday

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — On Thursday, in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque, Judge Kenneth Gonzales will hold a hearing on the court-appointed Special Master’s report regarding the New Mexico Human Services Department’s failure to comply with multiple court orders to timely and accurately provide food and medical assistance to eligible families. The court ordered 20 high-level employees to be present at the hearing.

In September 2016, Judge Gonzales held the HSD Secretary Brent Earnest in contempt for failing to remove barriers to assistance for eligible families and appointed a Special Master to monitor and make recommendations to the department. The Special Master issued a report in January 2018 finding that “the current HSD/ISD management team lacks sufficient knowledge, skills, and abilities to appropriately manage the program or bring it into full compliance with the Consent Decree.” The Special Master recommended that HSD take immediate action, including removing five high-level employees from the division that administers food and medical assistance, appoint qualified experts, and improve worker training.

Despite court orders and the expertise provided by the Special Master, HSD continues to improperly deny eligible New Mexicans food and medical assistance. Each month the department develops a backlog of unprocessed cases, a large share of phone calls are not answered, and workers are not accurately trained on the requirements for processing food and medical assistance applications.

WHAT:  
Court hearing on the Special Master’s Report (Doc. 810) on HSD compliance with court orders in Deborah Hatten Gonzales v. Brent Earnest (No. 88-385 KG/CG) and the objections to the Special Master’s Report (Docs. 812 & 813)

WHEN:
Thursday, March 1, 2018 at 9:00 a.m.

WHERE:
Pete V. Domenici United States Courthouse
440 Hondo Courtroom
333 Lomas Boulevard, N.W.
Albuquerque, NM 87102

WHO:
New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty attorneys
Special Master Lawrence M. Parker and Compliance Specialist Ramona McKissic
HSD Secretary Brent Earnest
HSD Deputy Secretary and General Counsel Christopher Collins
Income Support Division Director Mary Brogdon
19 other HSD staff members were also ordered to attend, including county directors, regional operations managers, a former deputy secretary, and assistant general counsel

Proposed cuts to Medicaid in Trump budget would have devastating impact on New Mexico

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — The proposed cuts to Medicaid in the Trump administration’s budget for fiscal year 2019 would prevent hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans from accessing healthcare. The budget, if approved by Congress, would cut Medicaid by $1.4 trillion dollars between 2019-2028; eliminate critical funding for Medicaid expansion, which provides over 250,000 New Mexicans with healthcare coverage; and end subsidies that help individuals and families when buying insurance through the marketplace.

“The drastic cuts to Medicaid would make healthcare unaffordable for millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans,” said Abuko D. Estrada, attorney for the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “After handing out tax cuts to the richest households, the administration now wants to cut Medicaid by over a trillion dollars in the next decade. This would devastate New Mexico’s budget or force our state to ration healthcare to children, the elderly, people with disabilities, pregnant women, and low-income adults.”

The budget proposes the same cuts to Medicaid as last year’s bills in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It would cut funding for Medicaid and restructure the program into a per capita cap system. This would give New Mexico a set amount of Medicaid funding to spend per person rather than a federal match for the state’s actual costs. If New Mexico’s Medicaid costs grow faster than the cap amount, the state would be forced to make deep cuts to Medicaid benefits, services, and even eligibility.

A study last year conducted by the UNM Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Center found that the combined Medicaid cuts could cost New Mexico more than $400 million per year or cause more than 250,000 people to lose coverage.

‘NM Together for Healthcare’ launches campaign for affordable healthcare for all New Mexicans

Statewide effort includes an innovative Medicaid buy-in plan

ALBUQUERQUE, NM: On Friday, New Mexico organizations and individuals launched NM Together for Healthcare, a campaign to make good healthcare affordable for everyone in the state. The campaign includes an initiative to advance an innovative Medicaid buy-in plan to expand access to quality, affordable healthcare.

“We are all equal in deserving health care,” said Alfonso Yazzie, healthcare leader from Yah-ta-hey, New Mexico.

In the upcoming Legislative Session, NM Together for Healthcare will be supporting state Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino and state Rep. Debbie Armstrong’s memorials to explore a Medicaid buy-in plan for New Mexico. The buy-in—a concept that is gaining momentum nationally with similar bills introduced in Congress and currently in progress in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Iowa—opens up Medicaid to allow more consumers to buy low cost coverage through a Medicaid plan. This provides people with affordable health care and creates more choices in the insurance market.

“Our work will not be done until all New Mexicans have access to affordable, quality health care,” said Armstrong, chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee. “We need innovative policies like Medicaid buy-in to make sure all families are cared for.”

NM Together for Healthcare began its campaign after hearing from New Mexicans that despite recent improvements through the Affordable Care Act, quality health care is still out of reach for many.

“My father worked as a custodian for 30-plus years in the schools,” said Maximina Urritia, a healthcare leader from Anthony. “After retiring, both my parents fell ill. With no insurance, and a budget of $700 per month from my dad’s retirement, they knew they could not afford the medical attention or medications they needed. Without that care, they died too early. Healthcare would have saved my parents lives.”

Currently, more than 180,000 New Mexicans, like Maximina’s parents, don’t have healthcare coverage.

“No one should have to go without healthcare because it is too expensive,” said Sireesha Manne, healthcare supervising attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, “Medicaid already helps more than 850,000 New Mexican children and families get comprehensive care, and could be opened up to everyone as a low-cost option. The buy-in plan is a promising solution.”

The campaign’s website can be found at: http://nmtogether4health.org/

Follow the campaign on Facebook @NMTogether4Healthcare and Twitter @NMT4HC.

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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 and New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty

 

 

Action Alert: Last chance to stop harmful Medicaid cuts in New Mexico

We have one last chance to stop the harmful Medicaid cuts that Governor Martinez and the Human Services Department are proposing in the Centennial Care 2.0 plan! Co-pays, premiums, eliminating retroactive coverage, and ending other important benefits will not make Medicaid better.

These major cuts will cause thousands of low-income New Mexicans to lose healthcare coverage, shift more costs to healthcare providers, and raise overall costs for our healthcare system and state budget. The cuts will also deny our children and families access to timely and appropriate care, forcing them to wait until medical conditions worsen into emergencies before seeking medical attention.

Please call and urge your networks to contact Governor Martinez at (505) 476-2200. Tell her to stop Medicaid cuts by withdrawing the proposals for premiums, co-pays, eliminating retroactive coverage, and other damaging cuts to benefits and services. Please call her this week before HSD submits its final proposal to the federal government.

 

Human Services Department to Hold Hearing on Medicaid Cuts on Monday, October 30

ALBUQUERQUE, NM—New Mexico’s Human Services Department (HSD) will hold a hearing on the serious cuts the Medicaid program faces in the Centennial Care 2.0 waiver proposal on Monday, October 30 at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque. This will be the final public hearing on the issue.

The waiver proposal eliminates important coverage and health benefits and imposes new excessive patient fees in the form of co-pays and premiums on the working disabled, low-income adults living just above the poverty line, and children enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). These fees will prevent people from seeking necessary healthcare and cause thousands of others to lose coverage.

WHAT:
HSD Hearing on the Centennial Care 2.0 Waiver Proposal

WHEN:
5:30-7:30 p.m., October 30, 2017

WHERE:          
National Hispanic Cultural Center’s Bank of America Theatre
1701 4th Street SW
Albuquerque, NM, 87102

Call in Number: 1-888-757-2790
Participant code: 991379#

WHO:

  • HSD staff
  • Abuko Estrada, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and other groups against the waiver
  • Public Comment

Healthcare Repeal Effort Comes to an End, Saving Medicaid Funds for New Mexico

WASHINGTON DC— Republicans in Congress decided today to end their push on the Graham-Cassidy bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act, because they do not have enough votes in their party to pass it through the Senate. Their decision comes after the Congressional Budget Office released a preliminary report yesterday that concluded millions of Americans would lose their healthcare coverage under the legislation, mostly due to significant cuts to Medicaid. The bill would have ended Medicaid Expansion for low-income adults and resulted in New Mexico losing billions of federal dollars over the next ten years.

“Medicaid has greatly improved the physical and economic health of New Mexico,” said Sireesha Manne, an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “This bill suffered the same problems as older versions. It would have ripped away healthcare coverage from millions of people and permanently damaged Medicaid – a cornerstone of our healthcare system.”

The bill would have ended the Medicaid Expansion that provides healthcare coverage to more than 255,000 low-income adult New Mexicans, and resulted in New Mexico losing $9 billion federal dollars by the year 2027, according to the nonpartisan research group Avalere. The bill capped funding for the entire Medicaid program and eliminated tax credits that help people buy insurance. States would have been allowed to let insurance plans stop covering essential health benefits and to charge more to consumers with pre-existing conditions.

“New Mexico would have been forced to pay billions more in healthcare costs or slash Medicaid coverage for more than 230,000 people and cut services for the most vulnerable populations – including children, seniors, and people with disabilities,” said Manne.

The bill faced widespread opposition from state officials, consumer groups, and medical and industry groups. It also proved to be unpopular among Americans, with a CBS News Poll showing 52% of respondents disapproving the bill and only 20% in approval. A statewide poll conducted in New Mexico earlier this year by Research & Polling, Inc. found that nearly three-quarters of New Mexicans are opposed to reducing federal funding for Medicaid, and four out of five voters believe Medicaid is “important” or “very important” to residents.