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What Health Action NM's Staff Are Reading This Week: July 13-17

 

The Obama Administration submits workaround for Hobby Lobby ruling.  In 2014, the Supreme Court determined that employers could reject covering contraception for employees on religious grounds.  The case, known as Hobby Lobby v Burwell, has the potential to restrict millions of women’s access to contraception.  Now, the Obama Administration has submitted the final rules to ensure that any person that needs contraceptive coverage has access to it.  The proposed rule respects the court’s ruling while creating a way for employees to get the coverage they need.

Here’s how it works: An eligible company that objects to contraception needs to inform the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) of its objection.  HHS will then designate the insurance carrier to provide the coverage directly rather than through the employer.  This will give employees a way to access the coverage they need while respecting the religious beliefs of employers as defined by the court.

- Barbara Webber, Executive Director

Texas-based organization pens op-ed in ABQ Journal about how ACA is bad for Latinos in New Mexico – they’re wrong.  Daniel Garza of the Libre Initiative claims that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has failed to live up to its promises, particularly for Hispanics.  He cites the recent proposed premium hikes and access issues with Medicaid.  Of course, he fails to mention that in 2015 New Mexico had one of the lowest pre-tax credit premiums for Silver benchmark plans in the nation.  And on that note, Mr. Garza says nothing about the availability of premium tax credits that ensure premiums remain affordable.  The average premium tax credit in New Mexico is $200 a month.  If the lowest priced plan is, as Mr. Garza claims, $199 a month then that's great news for consumers in New Mexico.

Also missing is any mention of the rate review process, which Health Action NM worked to establish, that is currently being undertaken by the New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance (OSI).  This process allows the insurance department to open insurance carrier’s books to prevent unjustified premium hikes. 

In fact, this year’s rates are shaping up to be lower than 2014’s rates. In 2015 rates went down 11.8% and 2016 rates are expected to increase about 11%.  And that’s before OSI reviews the rates and carriers consider how premium stabilization programs affect their bottom lines (which was released after  these rates were proposed).

  
by Kaiser Family Foundation

 

Mr. Garza’s claims on Medicaid ignore the incredible economic and health benefits that the Medicaid expansion has had for New Mexico.  Medicaid is actually a highly efficient program that offers a comprehensive range of benefits at a much lower cost than private insurance.  Medicaid is a good example of how we can better control the cost of health care in the US

If anything, New Mexico needs to do a better job of directing outreach to Hispanics and beef up enrollment assistance to guide them through the options that now exist.  Our staff’s analysis indicates that just over 10,000 Hispanics signed up for marketplace coverage in New Mexico.  Given the portion of the population that Hispanics make up, those numbers should be much higher.  For a real take on how the Medicaid expansion and health insurance exchange has impacted Hispanics and other ethnic minorities, read DeAnza’s story of the week.  Health Action NM will continue to provide accurate information on the ACA for Hispanics and all people living in New Mexico.

- Colin Baillio, Communications and Outreach

New Data Show ACA Enrollment for Communities of Color.  For the first time, we have data showing enrollment numbers by race and ethnicity for individual counties in states that use healthcare.gov.  The evidence shows that the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace coverage options have been a boon for millions of people across our country, particularly for communities of color, who have struggled with pervasive health disparities and higher rates of uninsured people compared to non-Hispanic whites.  In fact, the reduction in the rate of uninsured Latinos and African Americans over just the last two years significantly outpaced whites—the rate dropped 12.4 percent and 9.2 percent respectively compared to 5.3 percent for whites. This is welcome news for the hundreds of national, state, and local organizations that conducted concerted outreach and enrollment efforts in minority communities across the country.  Still, there is much work to do to raise awareness about the benefits available on the marketplace among hard-to-reach populations in New Mexico and cover all who are eligible.

- DeAnza Sapien, State Advocacy Coordinator

Despite weak job growth, Governor Martinez proposes work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.  Governor Martinez has proposed regulations that would impose stringent work requirements on SNAP benefits for
- teenagers without children 16 to 18
- adults without children age 50 to 60
- adults 16 to 60 who have children over age six

Given that nearly every sector of the economy is barely adding any jobs and that much of our workforce is aging, now is not the time to even consider regulations that make it more difficult for New Mexico’s people to afford food.  I was able to submit the following comments to the NM Human Services Department (HSD) at a recent hearing:

“We are blessed with many things in New Mexico . . . our people of many cultures, of many languages, people of many talents.  And we are blessed by the many people in state government who work with their heart and their administrative skills to assist those who need essential, basic help such as food assistance.  We are blessed to have many state people all over the state to administer this assistance to help people who are hungry.

So, my appeal is to your heart . . . people in state government.  The new proposed rules for SNAP are an administrative strategy to make it harder . . . , in fact, to make it impossible for people who are already struggling to provide for their families to keep getting food assistance!  Who will be harmed?   Many, many children, and parents, and seniors.

Hungry children are not healthy children.  Hunger rapidly impacts the health of the person.

So, I appeal to you State of New Mexico, don’t do these new rules.  They will hurt those who are hungry.  They will add to the struggle for survival for so many in New Mexico!  Instead, use your state talents to create livable wage jobs.  And hire the unemployed to use their talents to serve others, and not have to be in need of SNAP.

Finally, please do something very healthy for your heart . . . and don’t require these new rules!”

Health Action NM’s staff has submitted comments to HSD urging them not to leave New Mexicans hungry.  We encourage you to do the same by the end of the day by emailing comments to HSD-isdrules@state.nm.us

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