Taking Medicaid Buy-In to the Legislature

By Abuko Estrada

Affordable healthcare coverage for all New Mexicans could soon be a reality. For the past year and a half, families across the state in the NM Together for Healthcare campaign have been talking to their communities and elected leaders about opening up Medicaid so that anyone could buy into it — even those who don’t qualify for Medicaid currently.

The vision could soon become a reality in the 2019 legislative session. Support is spreading among state policymakers for a Medicaid buy-in plan. Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham has agreed it could be the most viable path towards healthcare coverage for all New Mexicans.

In New Mexico, over 180,000 residents remain uninsured despite coverage gains made under the Affordable Care Act. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in 2016, 45 percent of adults said they lacked healthcare coverage due to high costs. Some are locked out of no-cost or subsidized coverage systems altogether. Others, whose incomes are just too high to qualify for Medicaid, still can’t afford coverage even with tax credits provided by the federal government.

A Medicaid buy-in option would take the healthcare coverage affordability issues head-on by leveraging Medicaid to offer individuals and families more affordable coverage than is available through the private marketplace.

With the help of the campaign, communities around the state have voiced their support for the state to provide such an option. The counties of McKinley, Bernalillo, and Doña Ana; the cities of Anthony, Sunland Park, and Albuquerque; and the All Pueblo Council of Governors passed resolutions supporting New Mexico’s exploration of a Medicaid buy-in plan.

Manatt Health Solutions, a policy and strategic advisory group, is helping the state determine the best path for such a plan through a two-phase study. The first phase, which wraps up this month, outlines the pros and cons of different Medicaid buy-in models. The second phase, which should be done by January, will look at the costs to consumers, the impact on hospitals and other healthcare providers, and the costs to the state budget from implementing one or two of the models.

Assuming the study shows a viable path for the Medicaid buy-in, the NM Together for Healthcare Coalition will work closely with legislators to develop legislation for the state to implement the plan as soon as 2020.

To follow Medicaid Buy-in’s progress in New Mexico, please sign up on the NM Together for Healthcare website. Please also call your local representative and senator to let them know you want them to pass Medicaid buy-in legislation during the 2019 legislative session.

Doña Ana unanimously backs ‘Medicaid Buy-in’

County Commissioners moved by local support and statewide momentum

DONA ANA COUNTY—The Doña Ana Board of County Commissioners after hearing testimony from New Mexico Together for Healthcare family leaders who live in Doña Ana County, unanimously 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.

“Before I had Medicaid, I didn’t have insurance, and I was turned away when I went to the doctor,” said Maria Burciaga, a Doña Ana county resident and Strong Families New Mexico healthcare advocate. “I once saved $1500 to partially pay for a necessary treatment, but was told I could not get seen until I had the full amount, which was $4000. The expansion of Medicaid allowed me to access healthcare and get that treatment. We need to continue to pursue the Medicaid Buy-in to give even more access to even more people.”

Burciaga is part of NM Together for Healthcare, a family-driven, multi-racial campaign working statewide to provide healthcare access that is affordable to all New Mexicans.

Family leaders have been working tirelessly, reaching out to policy makers and building support in communities across New Mexico. ince July, six resolutions in support of studying a Medicaid Buy-in option have passed unanimously in local counties and city governments as well in sovereign nations across the state.

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

A Medicaid Buy-in plan would allow New Mexicans who are currently not eligible for Medicaid the option to buy into an affordable healthcare coverage plan that leverages Medicaid.

With more than 180,000 New Mexicans without health insurance, including over 25,000 Doña Ana County residents, a Medicaid Buy-in plan could substantially lower uninsured rates by utilizing the already popular and successful Medicaid model. Medicaid already covers over 830,000 New Mexicans, including over 104,000 Doña Ana County residents.

“I’m really passionate about this campaign because in 2014 I had kidney stones and couldn’t afford the surgery I needed, until I was able to access Medicaid. Without Medicaid, I would have had to take out a loan to cover the expenses and I would have gone into debt,” said Burciaga. “Having Medicaid has helped me to address my healthcare issues, and everyone should be able to afford to do this.”

The Doña Ana Board of County Commissioners 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.