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Health Action NM has had a busy month! A range of issues have come about, requiring advocacy at all levels - community, regulatory, and legislative. We have been attending community rallies & hearings to urge the governor not to make it harder for people in New Mexico to afford food, preparing for the health insurance premium rate review process to keep premium hikes in check, and working on proposals to fund the state’s 5% portion of the Medicaid expansion in 2017.
And all the while, we have been planning two big celebrations: The 50th Anniversary of Medicaid & Medicare (July 30th at Explora) and Health Action NM’s 20th Anniversary (September 26th at the Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque).
Community Advocacy: Opposing Work Requirements for SNAP
Hunger is a health issue. As our own Joe Martinez said at a hearing last week, “Hungry children are not healthy children. Hunger rapidly impacts the health of the person.” Yet even as our economy struggles to create jobs, the governor has proposed work requirements for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, impacting up to 80,000 people who are already working so hard to make ends meet. Now is not the time to even consider making it more difficult to access food. Health Action NM has formally submitted comments in opposition to the regulations.
Regulatory Advocacy: Keeping Premiums Affordable
Health Action NM worked to establish the health insurance premium rate review process in New Mexico in 2012. The process gives the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance the authority determine whether rate hikes truly reflect the costs of medical care and coverage. Our staff is working with other partners to review the numbers from each insurance carrier to determine whether or not recent rate increases are justified. Health Action NM will work with the Superintendent to ensure that consumers are represented in this process.
Legislative Advocacy: Funding the Medicaid Expansion
The costs of the Medicaid expansion have been fully covered by the federal government since the expansion began in January of 2014. In 2017, the state will have to pay for 5% of the costs, scaling up to 10% of the costs by 2020. Historically, New Mexico has paid nearly 30% of the cost of traditional Medicaid, so only paying 10% is a great deal for the state. Medicaid has had huge benefits for New Mexico. That’s why it is imperative that we maintain the integrity of the program as we fulfill the promise our state committed to when it expanded Medicaid.
Given the impact expansion has had on state revenues as a result of the up to $8.6 billion in increased economic activity, the $60 million in savings already recognized in the state budget, savings from reductions in uncompensated care, additional revenues from increased enrollment in private health plans, and revenue from expansion-driven jobs growth, the expansion of health coverage has largely paid for itself.
Even so, Health Action NM has been exploring other options for funding the expansion to ensure that the integrity of the program is not weakened. One proposal that recently caught our attention was put together by a coalition that has formed around increasing the tax on alcohol in New Mexico. Our state leads the nation in alcohol-related deaths, spending over $1.8 billion a year on the harms of alcohol. Research suggests that the proposed tax increase would save 52 lives in the first year and save even more each following year, greatly decrease youth alcohol use, and prevent alcohol dependency for tens of thousands of people living in New Mexico.
The coalition proposes that the legislature appropriate funds from an increased alcohol tax to fund the Medicaid expansion, strengthen existing alcohol prevention and treatment programs, and reimburse cities and counties for the costs of alcohol-related harms. The coalition meets the second Wednesday of every month. If you are interested in becoming involved in the coalition, please contact Peter DeBenedittis (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Dental Therapy: The Swinomish Tribe Hires a Dental Therapist
The Swinomish Indian Tribal Community in the Pacific Northwest has exerted its sovereignty by choosing to train and hire a dental therapist to practice on its tribal grounds. “Oral health is essential to overall health,” said Brian Cladoosby, Chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community. “We cannot have healthy communities without access to reliable, high quality and culturally competent dental care.”
As in New Mexico, tribal advocates in Washington State have played a crucial role in a broad coalition that has fought to license dental therapists for the past five years. After so many years of frustration with a federal law that restricts tribal sovereignty, the Swinomish Tribe has taken actions in to its own hands. This is an exciting development for advocates working to improve access to oral health services and tribes throughout the nation looking to provide culturally competent care for their people.
1) 4th Annual Native Youth Leadership Summit: July 28-31 @ Tamaya Resort & Spa
2) State Innovation Model Meeting: July 29th 2-4 @ The United Way Conference Room from 4-6 pm
3) 50th Anniversary Celebration of Medicare and Medicaid: July 30th @ Explora from 4-6 pm
4) NMHIX Board Meeting: July 31st @ The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center at 8:30 am
5) Beer for a Better Burque: August 3rd @ Tractor Brewery in Nob Hill & Wells Park from 3 pm - 12 am
6) Stakeholders Advisory Committee: August 13th @ ABQ Hispano Chamber of Commerce from 10 am – 12 pm
7) Health Action NM’s 20th Anniversary Celebration: September 26th @ Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque at 5:30pm