Overturning Affordable Care Act would leave over 300,000 New Mexicans without healthcare coverage

In a change of course, Trump administration says entire ACA should be struck down as unconstitutional

ALBUQUERQUE—This week the Trump administration announced that it agrees with a federal judge in Texas that the entire Affordable Care Act should be invalidated. Overturning the ACA would impact tens of millions of people who rely on the nine-year-old law for health insurance; in New Mexico, hundreds of thousands of residents would have their healthcare coverage stripped away.

In a significant change of course, on Monday night, President Trump’s Justice Department notified the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, where an appeal is pending in the case, Texas v. United States, that it would file a legal brief arguing that the entire act should be struck down as unconstitutional. A coalition of states is appealing the ruling and asking the appellate court to uphold the ACA.

“It’s shocking that President Trump and the Department of Justice intend to rip away access to healthcare for millions of people across the U.S. and hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans,” said William Townley, attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “Overturning the Affordable Care Act would damage the entire healthcare system, especially for low-income families. Healthcare coverage will become unaffordable for many New Mexicans, pricing them out of the healthcare system and blocking access to medical care.”

The Affordable Care Act provides coverage for hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans. An immediate termination of coverage for so many people has far-reaching and possibly irrevocable consequences in New Mexico.

  • Nearly 300,000 New Mexicans would lose their healthcare coverage through Medicaid expansion or coverage they’ve purchased on the Health Insurance Exchange;
  • Young adults would no longer be able to stay on their parents’ health plans until age 26;
  • Small business would lose tax credits that make it affordable to provide healthcare for their employees;
  • Insurance companies would be allowed to deny coverage for those who are suffering from pre-existing conditions; and
  • New Mexico’s economy would be threatened—Medicaid expansion has provided financial security for over 250,000 adults and has brought in federal funding that directly supports healthcare jobs and the healthcare sector overall.

“Healthcare coverage is a lifeline for millions of people across the country,” said Townley. “We should be finding ways to improve access to quality and affordable care rather than making devastating cuts to healthcare.”

Memorial to expand home visiting services passed by Senate Public Affairs Committee

SANTA FE— A memorial establishing an advisory council to develop a plan for the statewide expansion of a Medicaid-financed home visiting system in New Mexico, will head to the Senate floor following a “do-pass” vote today in the Senate Public Affairs Committee. Home visiting programs provide support and critical assistance for families that range from health care to emotional and social supports at a crucial time in a child’s brain development. Senate Memorial 117, Medicaid Home Visiting Program Council, is sponsored by Senator Linda M. Lopez.

“Every child deserves the best start from birth. Nurturing our state’s youngest children is key to ensuring they grow up healthy and prepared to succeed in life,” said William Townley, attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “We’re optimistic that the memorial will pass the Senate.”

If passed by the New Mexico Senate, SM 117 would convene a council of home visiting providers and heads of the Human Services Department, Children, Youth and Families Department, Department of Health, and the Children’s Cabinet to make recommendations for expanding home visiting across the state through Medicaid financing.

Research shows that home visiting helps establish a strong foundation for families so children can grow up healthier and parents can develop stronger parenting skills. Home visiting programs that currently exist in New Mexico provide a team of professionals to help families learn about healthcare, child development, and parenting skills. Other services can include screening mothers for postpartum depression, supporting breastfeeding, and connecting families to community activities.

Unfortunately, most New Mexican families do not have access to home visiting services. Most services are offered by private non-profits that cannot scale up to meet the large unmet need in the state.

“Offering education early in a child’s life is essential in helping families succeed,” said Townley. “It would be good for everyone in New Mexico if more families could access home visiting.”

Investment in home visits invests in our future

By William Townley, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty Healthcare Attorney
(This op-ed appeared in the Albuquerque Journal)

Every parent knows that having a new child is incredible and wonderful, but also one of the most stressful endeavors anyone can ever hope to undertake. In New Mexico, about 27,000 children are born each year. Many of these newborns are the sons and daughters of first-time parents who are just embarking on a lifetime full of joys and the greatest of challenges.

Every child deserves the best start from birth. We know that the earliest years of our children’s lives are the most important in their social, emotional and cognitive development. Nurturing our youngest children is key to ensuring they grow up healthy and prepared to succeed in life.

But parenting is hard. And it can be especially daunting for parents who have little in resources.

Home-visiting programs can be of great help to new families, providing support and critical assistance that ranges from health care to emotional and social supports at a crucial time in a child’s brain development. 

This legislative session, our leaders have an opportunity to expand Medicaid-funded home visiting to more families statewide. Services that more New Mexicans could access include checking on the development and health of the child, screening mothers for post-partum depression, supporting breastfeeding, and connecting families to community activities.

New Mexico is already moving forward with a pilot home-visiting program for Medicaid eligible families in Bernalillo County starting in January 2019. Curry and Roosevelt counties will join the pilot later in the year. 

This pilot will implement two different models of evidence-based home visiting, Parents as Teachers and Nurse-Family Partnership, which have been found to produce higher educational and health outcomes for children. Both models measurably reduce birth complications, infant emergency medical care episodes, as well as incidence of child abuse and neglect, and successfully encourage young parents to pursue higher education and job training.

There has never been a more opportune time to invest in our children. The pilot program leverages federal funding to cover about 70 percent of the costs. If our Legislature expanded the program, our state would be able to leverage the same percentage and New Mexico could offer home visiting programs at a fraction of what it would otherwise cost the state.

For every dollar we invest in home visiting, New Mexico can save between three dollars and six dollars in remedial costs. Home visiting establishes a strong foundation for families where children can grow up healthier and safer, and parents can develop stronger parenting skills for the years to come.

We call on our governor-elect and state lawmakers to expand Medicaid-funded home visiting to all New Mexican families. We ask that you pick up the phone and do the same.

Governor-elect can stop harmful Medicaid cuts

ALBUQUERQUE—Governor-elect Michelle Lujan-Grisham should quash serious cuts New Mexico’s Medicaid program faces in the Centennial Care 2.0 waiver approved today by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The cuts, proposed by the Human Services Department under the Susana Martinez administration, would hurt families and violate federal law according to the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

HSD’s Centennial Care 2.0 waiver proposal asked the federal government for permission to increase New Mexico’s Medicaid premiums and cut retroactive coverage. The cuts are scheduled to roll out in 2019 over a series of months.

“No one should have to choose between putting food on the table and healthcare, but that’s exactly what these cuts would do,” said William Townley, an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “We have vastly improved the health of our state by expanding the number of New Mexicans eligible for Medicaid. These cuts would have a devastating impact on our state’s families and our economy. We urge Governor-elect Lujan-Grisham to rescind or amend these harmful cuts in Centennial Care 2.0.”

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 ten dollars a month is prohibitive and would force them to choose between healthcare and other necessities like food, housing, and transportation. In Oregon where similar premiums were imposed, 50,000 people lost coverage within nine months of the new policy.

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. Hospital bills are especially devastating for families on limited income, often ranging from $10,000 to over $100,000. 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.

“Under federal law, CMS is only allowed to waive certain provisions in Medicaid. CMS ignored those prohibitions today, approving cuts that will reduce access to healthcare coverage and increase medical debt for New Mexico’s families,” said Abuko D. Estrada, supervising attorney for Healthcare with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.

It would not be unusual for the governor-elect to rescind approved cuts. After being pressured by healthcare advocates, HSD already removed or scaled back a number of harmful provisions in earlier versions of Centennial Care 2.0, including removing premium requirements for additional groups of Medicaid enrollees, removing penalties for missed appointments, and limiting benefits and services for parent/caretakers and children enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

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

New Mexico families will not lose access to SNAP   

Farm Bill fails to pass

ALBUQUERQUE— Lawmakers rejected the 2018 Farm Bill today. The bill would have increased food insecurity by significantly cutting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, by more than $20 billion over ten years. The cuts would have made it difficult for millions of Americans to access enough groceries and healthy food and would have had a particularly harmful impact on New Mexico, where one in four people rely on SNAP to eat, including one in three of the state’s children.

“We are relieved that the House voted to protect access to food for hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans, including children, low-wage workers, older adults, and people with disabilities,” said William Townley, an attorney with the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “SNAP is New Mexico’s first defense against hunger and creates jobs in our agricultural and food industries. We hope Congress will move forward with legislation that bolsters our food assistance programs and ensures that no one in our communities goes hungry.”

Rep. Steve Pearce, who represents southern New Mexico’s District 2, voted in favor of the bill. SNAP has been vital in helping struggling southern New Mexicans afford basic nutrition. At least 162,393 New Mexicans in Pearce’s district participate in SNAP. Most of these families include children and nearly a third include senior citizens. Over half of the SNAP participants in District 2 are in working families.

41 organizations, including the New Mexico Pediatric Society, sent a letter this week to Pearce and Representatives Ben Ray Lujan and Michelle Lujan Grisham urging them to vote against the legislation. The letter can be found here: http://nmpovertylaw.org/farm-bill-snap-sign-on-letter-2018-05-15/

The signatories include:

New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty
El CENTRO de Igualdad y Derechos
Equality New Mexico
Interfaith Worker Justice – New Mexico
National Education Association- New Mexico
Ojo Sarco Community Center
Rio Grande Food Project
RISE Stronger New Mexico
La Semilla Food Center
Santa Maria de la Vid Abbey
Food Bank of Eastern New Mexico
Interfaith Hunger Coalition
The Community Pantry
New Mexico Pediatric Society
National Center for Frontier Communities
New Mexico Asian Family Center
Senior Citizens Law Office
Freeman House
Prosperity Works
Lutheran Advocacy Ministry-New Mexico
New Mexico Voices for Children
National Union of Hospital and Healthcare Employees- District 1199NM
New Mexico Coalition to End Homelessness
Mesilla Valley Community of Hope
Casa Milagro
Enlace Comunitario
Southwest Women’s Law Center
New Mexico Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Crossroads for Women
Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico
New Mexico Children Advocacy Networks
Encuentro
OLÉ Education Fund
Pegasus Legal Services for Children
Strong Families NM of Forward Together
Transgender Resource Center of New Mexico
National Center for Frontier Communities
Southwest Center for Health Innovation
Center for Civic Policy
NM CAFé (Comunidades en Acción y de Fe)
New Mexico Community Health Worker Association

For more information on the 2018 Farm Bill and how the SNAP cuts would have impacted 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 the 2018 Farm Bill and how the SNAP cuts would have impacted southern New Mexico, go to:  http://nmpovertylaw.org/2018/05/farm-bill-proposal-would-hurt-southern-new-mexico-economy-and-leave-families-hungry/

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

Farm Bill proposal would hurt southern New Mexico economy and leave families hungry

ALBUQUERQUE — The cuts to food assistance proposed in the 2018 House Farm Bill, which could be voted on as early as next week, would have a particularly harmful impact on southern New Mexico’s Congressional District 2. The district is in an agricultural and rural part of the state where almost one in four people participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, to buy groceries and healthy food.

Rep. Steve Pearce has voiced his support for the proposed SNAP cuts in the Farm Bill, which would cut funding for SNAP by $20 Billion over the next ten years by cutting eligibility for families, penalizing people looking for work, and other changes.

“We need a Farm Bill that actually supports farmers and our shared work to eliminate hunger in the community,” said George Lujan, executive director of SouthWest Organizing Project (SWOP). “Southern New Mexico is one of the most prolific agricultural regions in the country where we grow many of our most popular traditional foods. There’s no reason for a high instance of hunger in an area where food has such deep cultural and historical roots. We need to make sure our policy decisions are in line with our shared belief that everyone has enough to eat in our community.”

SNAP has been vital in helping struggling southern New Mexicans afford a basic diet. At least 162,393 New Mexicans in Pearce’s district participate in SNAP. Most of these families include children and nearly a third include senior citizens. Over half of the SNAP participants in District 2 are in working families.

“Roadrunner Food Bank is deeply concerned about the House Agriculture Committee’s Farm Bill legislation. The bill’s severe cuts to the SNAP program will lengthen the lines at our pantries, soup kitchens, and other sites that serve hungry people,” said Mag Strittmatter, president and CEO of Roadrunner Food Bank. “Deep cuts to SNAP will negatively impact the people we serve and increase hunger in our community. We want to see a strong Farm Bill that protects the hungry as well as struggling farmers and rural communities, but this bill as drafted would only worsen hunger and make it harder for children, seniors, and families to access food assistance.”

If the Farm Bill passes, it would cut SNAP eligibility by reducing the net income limits from 165 percent to 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Level and removing any options for New Mexico to increase the eligibility level. It would also add bureaucratic requirements removed decades ago like requiring New Mexicans to provide their utility bill to their local Income Support Division office.

“Federal Nutrition programs like SNAP account for 80 percent of the Farm Bill, and this Congress is seeking to slash it by $20 Billion. The local impact would be devastating. In Dona Ana County alone, over 60,000 of our neighbors are recipients of SNAP benefits,” said Krysten Aguilar, director of operations and policy advocacy at La Semilla Food Center. “This bill targets our most vulnerable families and children and attacks their ability to eat.”

Aguilar continued, “SNAP benefits generate $1.70 of economic activity for every federal $1 spent, so not only is the program working to feed people, it is creating jobs and stimulating our local economy. This bill is cruel, senseless, and economically unsound.”

SNAP program cuts would decrease economic activity in southern New Mexico, where SNAP benefits boost food purchases spent at local grocers and farmer’s markets by hundreds of millions of dollars a year. On average, SNAP participants in New Mexico receive $121 a month in benefits. That amounts to $19 Million spent in local businesses across Southern New Mexico each month.

The Farm Bill does nothing to increase employment or wages, but proposes a one-size-fits-all work hour requirement for an expanded number of adults that would force states to develop large new bureaucracies. Unemployed or underemployed adults, including those with children over 6 years old, would be cut off of SNAP for up to three years if they cannot comply with the requirements.

New Mexico had a similar program from 2011 to 2016. Data from HSD showed that the majority of participants lost food benefits and there were no improvements in earnings or employment. In fact, the state’s administration of the program was so poor, a federal judge ordered the state to cease implementation.

“We know SNAP works in New Mexico. Cutting it would take food away from people struggling to make ends meet, and from children and working people,” said William Townley, an attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “It is completely backward to take food away from people who are struggling to find work or are unable to work. Instead, Congress should work together on legislation that provides meaningful job training and jobs with wages families can actually live on.”

New Mexico has consistently qualified for a statewide waiver of any federal penalties on unemployed adults because New Mexico has persistently high unemployment compared with the national average. Under the new bill, most of New Mexico would no longer qualify for a waiver.

The Farm Bill, a piece of legislation renewed every five years, includes the budget for food and agriculture programs, such as crop insurance and subsidies, rural development, SNAP, and other nutrition programs.

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

For information on SNAP participants in District 2 by county, go to: http://nmpovertylaw.org/snap-participants-and-total-pop-dist-2-table/

Proposed cuts to SNAP in House Farm Bill would take food off the table for New Mexico families

ALBUQUERQUE, NM — The House Farm Bill, released yesterday, proposes significant cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, by cutting eligibility for families, penalizing unemployed adults, and other changes. The cuts would make it difficult for millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans to access enough groceries and healthy food. The bill would have a particularly harmful impact on New Mexico, where one in four people rely on SNAP to eat, including 40 percent of the state’s young children.

“We have a shared responsibility to make sure our neighbors and members of our community all have enough to eat and can access healthy food. But these shameful changes to SNAP literally take food off the table for people trying to get by,” said William Townley, an attorney at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty. “It is completely backward to take food away from people who are struggling to find work. We know that participating in SNAP helps people get on their feet when they are unemployed.”

SNAP is the nation’s and New Mexico’s most effective anti-hunger program. It helps struggling families and workers access enough food to eat. The vast majority of SNAP participants, 74 percent, are in families with children and 51 percent are in working families. The remainder, 26 percent, are in families with members who are elderly or have disabilities. New Mexico families receive SNAP for an average of 14 months, making it a critical temporary support.

The Farm Bill would cut eligibility for SNAP for hundreds of thousands of families by reducing the income limits from 165 percent to 130 percent of the Federal Poverty Level and removing any options for New Mexico to increase the eligibility level. It would also add bureaucratic requirements that had been removed decades ago, such as requiring New Mexicans to provide their utility bill to their local Income Support Division office.

The proposed bill would require states to mandate and administer an unpaid work program for unemployed adults between the ages of 18 and 59, including families with children over six years old. Federal law would no longer permit states to design and implement their own work programs. 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.

Currently, only adults age 18 to 49 without children can be required to do work hours if they are unemployed and waivers are available for areas of high unemployment. New Mexico has consistently qualified for a waiver of any federal work requirements because New Mexico has persistently high unemployment compared with the national average. Under the new bill, most of New Mexico would no longer qualify for a waiver.

The changes to federal food assistance programs would also impact Native American communities in New Mexico, which include 23 sovereign nations. The proposed Farm Bill seeks to eliminate federal requirements that people receiving food assistance on Native American reservations be surveyed to determine which traditional foods are most common in the community.

“Native American nations have the right to govern their affairs and protect the health and well-being of their peoples,” said Cheryl Fairbanks, interim executive director of the Native American Budget and Policy Institute. “Not only do the proposed cuts in the Farm Bill violate the rules and trust between tribal sovereigns and the federal government, they would increase hardship for Native Americans families. We need to make sure that all of our kids have their basic necessities met.”

As of February 2018, 75,637 SNAP participants in New Mexico were Native American. The federal government must engage in government to government consultation prior to changing federal food programs that impact Native Americans. Pueblo, Navajo, and Apache governments must be able to determine the best way to address food security in their own communities.

“We know SNAP works in New Mexico. Cutting it would take food away from people struggling to make ends meet, and from children and working people,” said Townley. “When you are looking for a job, you need to be able to eat.”

The Farm Bill, a piece of legislation renewed every five years, includes the budget for food and agriculture programs, such as crop insurance and subsidies, rural development, SNAP, and other nutrition programs.

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