At this time, it is important that everyone have access to healthcare that offers them the coverage that they need at an affordable rate. With congress meeting to discuss further actions for COVID, these are Health Action New Mexico’s recommendations for federal COVID relief.
- Create a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) during the entirety of the pandemic period. This will get more people enrolled especially as spikes and surges see even more people losing coverage.
- Protect consumers for all Covid-19 related medical debt during the state of emergency and 90 days after should be consumer protected including a one year prohibition on collection, a one year-prohibition on credit reporting, a one year extension on appeal federal and state insurance appeal deadlines and a prohibition on interest related to these debts. At this time, it is important that all people be provided the resources that they need to stay safe and healthy. The last thing they should worry about is medical bills, especially as the overall economy is on a downward trajectory. According to a study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “problems paying medical costs are associated with higher credit card debt, more calls from bill collectors, increased bankruptcy rates, and diminished access to care.”
- Invest $5 billion in state and local public health infrastructure.
- Improve prevention, identification, and treatment of Covid-19 among incarcerated people and those held in ICE detention centers, including staff and all employees by creating mandated Covid-19 prevention and treatment standards with federal accountability. Fund expanded screening and community providers with infectious disease expertise to provide treatment in these facilities. In New Mexico, federal detention and prison facilities have been continuous hotspots with hundreds of cases bringing ongoing community spread into their communities. The state has donated their own testing equipment to encourage addressing the issue but has no jurisdiction. Investigations by advocacy groups have reported lack of use of masks, testing and social distancing in both ICE and federal prison facilities.
- Withdraw the public charge rules. Immigrants must be considered in any pandemic response legislation. To slow the spread of the disease, we must make sure that everyone is covered and no one feels afraid to access public services. Immigrants are often front line workers in our New Mexico economy - as health care workers, home health aides, critical members of the food change and other essential services. Denying citizenship and residency extensions to people who use public services and clinics creates a disincentive to get tested and ultimately makes stopping the spread of the virus more difficult. As a state with a large immigrant population, New Mexico is at an increased risk if these benefits are not provided.
 NCBI, “Health Insurance Status, Medical Debt, and Their Impact on Access to Care in Arizona.”