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Recommendations to State Officials: Health Coverage and COVID-19

Recommendations to State Officials: Health Coverage and COVID-19

Dear State Leaders and Lawmakers,

Thank you for your continued efforts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 in New Mexico. Decisive  action early in the crisis by Governor Lujan Grisham’s administration saved countless lives in ourcommunities. We have also witnessed state agencies demonstrating a commitment to collaborating and removing barriers for New Mexicans to access the care, social services, and economic relief they need in this trying time. As we look toward the June special session and beyond, we see further opportunity to safeguard New Mexicans from the short- and long-term ramifications of the pandemic. COVID-19 has exposed serious holes in America’s social safety net. Health care access is a critical part of the response to this global pandemic and will continue to be paramount over the coming months and years as the country recovers. Nearly 190,000 New Mexicans did not have health insurance prior to the pandemic, according to the Urban Institute. This often means postponing or completely skipping needed care, both routine and urgent. Barriers to healthcare access make it difficult to connect uninsured New Mexicans with testing and treatment services. Efforts to eliminate these barriers are necessary to slow the spread of disease by making COVID-19 testing and treatment more accessible for those who need it, especially for populations with limited income.

We are also deeply concerned by the revenue crisis facing our state, especially as social services and public safety net programs play a more important role than ever before. Our overreliance on oil and gas leaves New Mexico severely vulnerable to volatility and the health issues associated During the June special session, we urge legislators not to allow short-sighted cuts to our budget that will hurt our families in the long run.

State legislators, agencies, and executives must address the urgent needs of New Mexicans and the state economy, while maintaining a strong social safety net and sustainable revenue sources for the future. To do so, we recommend specific legislation, statute modifications, and operational adjustments to be implemented as soon as possible. We also emphasize the need for all parties to do their part to safeguard attacks on pivotal social services and revenue streams.

Protecting Health Care and Social Services Amid Revenue Crisis

 Do not reduce or eliminate essential health and social services, including fully-funded Medicaid.
In the midst of the historic public health crisis, New Mexicans rely on these services more than
ever to stay healthy and provide for their families.

 Oral health services are essential to overall health. Do not reduce or eliminate dental benefits
during the revenue crisis as has been done historically in other downturns.

 Tap into available reserve funds for their intended purpose of safeguarding New Mexicans from
damaging cuts during a budget shortfall

 Pass a bill 1 to transfer the federal health insurance carrier fee to the state, creating a crucial
revenue source for COVID-19 response measures and long-term affordability efforts. This
revenue can temporarily be put into General Revenue for 18 months before transferring to the
coverage affordability fund. Insurers have experienced a windfall 2 during the pandemic as claims
have plunged. All players must assist at this moment in time.

 Continue to support the expansion of health coverage under the innovative expansion of coverage
being studied by HSD.

 Help New Mexicans directly by expanding existing tax credits and rebates, expanding the
General Assistance Program, and creating a supplemental unemployment program for those left
out of the federal program.

 Promote transparency and accessibility in the special session by releasing proposals in advance
and making user-friendly streaming options available with language access options.

 Strengthen measures to address food insecurity, especially among New Mexican children. One in
three children in NM experience food insecurity 3 as we move through the pandemic.

 Continue to explore lowering the cost of prescription medications including convening the task
force to study other potential caps in the Prescription Drug Cost Sharing Bill 4 passed in 2020.

 Avoid serious cuts to the NM Environmental Department and the NM Department of Energy,
Minerals and Resources that would delay the important public health task of state methane rule

 Continue the environmental work of safely plugging abandoned oil wells, 6 especially if these
increase amid oil industry bankruptcies in NM, and seek federal funding to expand this work as
well as reforming industry bonds to assure these costs are more fully covered.

 Native Americans in NM have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 in part due to lack
of federal and state partnership for necessary infrastructure and resources. Schedule more
frequent and regular tribal consultations to robustly address the historical neglect, silence and
lack of Native American voices in state policy and resource allocation.

Increasing Access to Coverage and Reducing Barriers to Medicaid Enrollment

 Continue statewide presumptive and continuous eligibility during the pandemic.

 Continue to suspend the recertification process and data checks for the duration of the outbreak.

 Streamline Medicaid and SNAP enrollment for individuals and families who file for
unemployment insurance.

 Include maximum information to unemployment beneficiaries regarding health insurance options
if they have lost coverage both electronically with sign-on tools and in person both in the
application and recertification process.

 Continue to automatically re-enroll people whose Medicaid was suspended or terminated while in
the corrections system.

 Continue to eliminate asset tests wherever possible.

 Continue to conduct an earned media campaign to raise awareness in immigrant communities
about the suspension of federal public charge rules for COVID-19.

Covering the Uninsured Who Don’t Qualify for Medicaid or Other Options

 Join other states in extending Medicaid Emergency Assistance to cover non legal status
immigrants in NM for Covid-19 treatment 7 in addition to testing during the pandemic.

 Identify emergency funding to pay down premiums for individuals with coverage through MIP
making less than 200% FPL.

 Identify emergency resources for community clinics that primarily serve the uninsured.
Minimizing Cost Barriers in Private Insurance

 Enforce requirement that insurance companies to waive out-of-pocket costs related to COVID-19
testing and treatment. Clarify under what conditions, if any, antibody testing will be paid for
without co-pays.

 Require insurance companies to issue letters, emails, phone calls, text messages, and other forms
of contact to individuals and families who purchase coverage on the Marketplace informing them
that they can reduce their premiums by adjusting their annual income on if they
expect to earn less than anticipated when they initially signed up for coverage. Include
information on Special Enrollment Periods related to income or job changes.

 Encourage self-insured businesses and their third party administrators to waive out-of-pocket
costs related to COVID-19 testing and treatment for employees.

 Raise awareness about efforts to eliminate cost barriers, including surprise billing protections and
waived out-of-pocket costs.

Your efforts to respond to this challenge are greatly appreciated. Please contact us at any time should
questions arise regarding any of these recommendations.

Barbara K Webber
Executive Director

Gabriella Rivera
Communications/Policy Analyst




Health Action