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StoryTellers as Agents for Change


This is Iris Gersh.

At the age of 63, Iris found herself living with fibromyalgia and without health care. In the fall of 2013, she discovered that New Mexico had expanded their Medicaid program, allowing herself and many other New Mexicans to apply for coverage for the first time. She applied. A few months later, Medicaid sent her a denial letter for full coverage, and instead presented her with Family Planning coverage.

At age 63, Iris clearly needs coverage beyond Family Planning. She decided not to give up. With limited knowledge of how she might be able to change her situation, she began researching online what those options may be. Within a few short weeks, Iris reached out to HANM and the NM Center on Law & Poverty for assistance on filing an appeal with the Income Support Division office that denied her full Medicaid coverage. She filed the appeal, and was successful in getting full coverage.

As of today, Iris is now receiving full coverage through Medicaid and is able to afford the medication she desperately needs to fight her chronic fibromyalgia.

There is a need for these stories.

Like Iris, there are thousands more stories in New Mexico of people who have been positively impacted by new health coverage options. But many of them haven’t had the opportunity or the platform to share their story. As advocates for change, how can we give a voice to those who are fighting to be heard? These storytellers are, or can become, huge catalysts for change within their communities. They can get their communities excited about the new health coverage options, and inspired to take action.

As community advocates we all need to make sure these consumer voices are heard. These stories are a compelling picture of what’s happening in New Mexico - not just a statistic. So grab your iPhones, your voice recorders, or your notebooks. Go out with open hearts & ears, and find the consumer voices that have carried the weight of this struggle for better health care in New Mexico. They are the voices that shine the light of hope as we move forward.

Health Action

To Your Health - Own it!

Campus Chalking

Students at the University of New Mexico are not messing around when it comes to health insurance. Groups like the BA/MD organization, ASUNM, NMPIRG, and others are hitting the concrete slabs of campus and ensuring the student body knows that they STILL have today to sign up for coverage!

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As Young Invincibles, students, young adults or whichever code name for “youngster” you’d like to identify with, we’re faced with a bucket-list of challenges and equally a basket full of opportunities. Some of those challenges involve financial disparities, lack of time, or our bicycle (which is our only form of transportation) got stolen and our dogs are BARKING. So, where in all that does health coverage fit in? Check out the video below to find out how to 1) learn more 2) get enrolled 3) share with your roommate who likes to jump off those cliffs at Jemez and always seems to get hurt.

To hear more about how you can get coverage and WHY should get coverage, check out Nathan Lihte’s Story here.

Nathan Lihte's Story, by HealthActionNM


Health Action

Create Your Own Creative Coverage Cabaret


Portable Dorothy, performing at HANM's Creative Coverage Cabaret

So you must be wondering… what is a Creative Coverage Cabaret? Think: Health Care Outreach using live comedy, slam poetry, improv, musicians, and other creatives who exercise their artistic abilities to spread the word about getting enrolled!

Want to do your own? Not sure what to look for or where to start? Here’s our tip sheet to get you Cabaret-ing your way to Coverage:

1) Location, Location, Location!

  • Where can you find YOUR audience?
  • Bars are nice, but watch out for lighting, sound quality, and floor layout.
  • Outdoor locations like parks, amphitheaters, plazas, etc. (Make sure to check the sound quality capabilities.)
  • Coffee shops are great for a cozier cabaret.

2) Performers to Perform the Art of Performing

  • Vet those artist types: they can be wild-cards, so make sure you book the right artists.
  • Look for people who honestly care about your issue.
  • Try getting artists who can tie health care into their act (ex: see the Rio Dos Lunas Improv team video below)
  • Do you like collaborating with them? If not, don’t book em!
  • Choose a fantastic emcee! Ideally, they should be well known in your community, comfortable working a crowd, and entertaining/HILARIOUS.
Creative Coverage Cabaret: Rio Dos Lunas Healthcare Improv, by HealthActionNM

3) Line Ups or Set Lists are the Key

  • Put those organizational skills to practice by creating a detailed agenda for the evening.
  • Depending on your vision for the evening, assign 5-20 minute time slots for each artist.
  • Have a point person who is tasked with keeping the show moving on time the day of the big event. Bonus points if this is also your emcee!

4) Take a Stab at your Own TED Talk

  • 8 minutes max! Give just enough information to get people (a) excited about their options, and (b) empowered to take action.
  • Use a health care story of a local community member to get the ball rolling.
  • Statistics are great, but keep them to a minimum.
  • Close with a Call to Action that entices the crowd to see what coverage is available for them.

5) Get them interacting

  • No one likes to sit for two hours straight. We broke up the evening with a pub quiz.
  • Pub quiz: 12-15 questions, broken up into two sections. People answered the questions on a sheet of paper as a team at their table. The winning table went home with a prize!

6) Have Fun

  • Event planning can be stressful, but Cabarets are meant to be fun. So: 1) Kick back and Trust your Line Up 2) No Matter What, the Show Will Go On 3) Believe in the Outreach & Education, and People will Show Up.

Now, you’re ready to start creating! Feel free to contact us if you want more details on how to put on your own Creative Coverage Cabaret.

Health Action

The Many Faces of Medicaid Expansion

Esperanza Dodge - Albuquerque, NM

Esperanza is a working mother whose son has chronic asthma. She and her son were on Medicaid, but had to transition at the end of 2013. “It's been really helpful for me, because as a mother and as a woman, I'm able to provide for myself and get myself checked up, and anything that is healthcare related I know that I can cover it.”

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Levi Casas - Mesilla Park, NM

Levi did not have health insurance to cover his chemotherapy treatments. On October 1, 2013 Levi showed up to an ISD office in southern New Mexico to get enrolled for Medicaid.

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Alessandra - Penasco, NM

We talked to Alessandra in the fall. “I would love to enroll in Medicaid. I don’t know how to enroll. I need some help finding out how to enroll.”

- - -

Governor Martinez agreed to expand Medicaid in New Mexico in 2013, and it went into effect on January 1, 2014. Great! But for the average New Mexican, what does that even mean?

If you were like me 6 months ago, Medicaid was like a distant cousin I’d only heard about through conversations over tea and a fruit cake with my Great Aunt Marie. And for all I knew, FPL could have meant Frosting Pie Lovers. What expanded, then? And how does it affect you, or me, or your neighbor in apartment C who's always getting hurt doing the darndest things - insert warning label here.

Here’s the skinny.

Eligibility will now be primarily based on income, rather than on the multiple eligibility categories that were used before. That’s the FPL I mentioned, which actually stands for “Federal Poverty Level.” FPL is a way to measure people’s income levels. Single, childless adults are now be able to get Medicaid if they have an FPL below a certain percentage. This has never happened before in New Mexico!

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Well, Shucks, how do I know if I make too much or just the right amount to qualify for Medicaid?” The qualifying FPL for a household of one is now equal or lesser than $1,323 per month or $15,856 per year.  

Imagine the many New Mexicans Medicaid serves now!


Health Action

Marketplace Enrollment Success Story: "It's great!"

Mark Horst is a local artist in Albuquerque. He was one of the first to try enrolling on the Marketplace last fall. Once he was able to get past the website glitches, he found a plan that saved his family money. Check out his story.

Health Action

New HANM video series

Happy Friday, everyone!

Health Action has been working hard to collect consumer stories over the past several months. Now, the fun begins. We will start releasing the videos of these stories over the next several weeks. 

Here is our first: Guida. Guida lives in Albuquerque, NM. In 2002 she got a spider bite that changed her life. Medicaid helped her adjust to a difficult life change. This is her story.

Have a great weekend!

Health Action

Health care for artists - find out more

Guest post by Zack Kear, Albuquerque resident, musician & teacher(Originally published as an oped in the Albuquerque Journal, 2/13/2014.)


I’m a musician, which means I work several jobs so that I can do what I love. But it’s difficult to maintain affordable health insurance when most of your work is part-time or you’re in between jobs, and I know a lot of my friends are in the same boat.

There’s been a lot of talk about the new health care law, but I still have a lot of unanswered questions, and I know my fellow artists do, too. I heard that Health Action New Mexico is hosting a “Creative Coverage Cabaret” at ArtBar this Sunday from 4-7 p.m. for artists and art lovers who need health insurance.

Health Action New Mexico will have health care guides at the event to answer questions, no matter how small. If you’re like me, you get overwhelmed at the very mention of premiums, deductibles and co-pays. So having a friendly expert to explain my options – especially about what financial assistance I can get to help pay for insurance – sounds great.

While you talk to the health care guides, there will be live performances from a long list of Albuquerque-based artists from comedians to musicians to dancers. Come support our local talent and get health insurance – what better way to get covered?

I’m going because last year my University of New Mexico Cares plan was denied renewal. To make matters worse, I developed a jaw alignment problem that insurance wouldn’t cover.

As a singer and a flautist, this was potentially devastating. I ended up paying out of pocket for my preventative treatment only to find myself unable to afford the cost of monthly insurance.

Now that I’m without, I appreciate the value of health insurance more than I did before. If I needed other medical care tomorrow, I would have no way to afford it. So now that there are all these new plans under the new law, I’m hoping that the guides at the Creative Coverage Cabaret can help me find an affordable plan.

What I’ve learned so far about the Affordable Care Act is that almost three-quarters of uninsured New Mexicans are eligible for financial assistance or Centennial Care (our new Medicaid), and Centennial Care has expanded to include adults who have never qualified for Medicaid before. So chances are you qualify for financial help. And if you do, you could pay seriously low-cost or no-cost monthly premiums – and you wouldn’t have to worry about how you would pay in an emergency.

The other great thing is that the new rules give you better, more comprehensive care than was available on a lot of plans before the Affordable Care Act.

Now health insurance is required to cover basic benefits like prescription drugs, hospitalization or doctor’s visits. And on top of that, a lot of the things that could prevent sickness – like flu shots, checkups and cancer screenings – are free.

So come for the music, comedy and performance and potentially leave with health insurance coverage. Even if you have coverage already, you should come learn about the changes and how they affect you because there could be cheaper, better plans out there. At the very least, it’s a night to celebrate both our art and our health.

If you can’t come to the event, call Health Action New Mexico at 505-867-1095 because they can explain the new options a lot better than I can. Just do it before March 31, otherwise you may have to pay the fine and wait until next year to enroll.

Affordable, accessible health care means that we can do what we love without having to worry about where our health insurance is coming from or how we are going to afford it. Come to ArtBar by Catalyst Club at 119 Gold SW to see what that means to us.

Health Action

Healthy Holiday Homecomings

Photo from Flickr


Tired of re-gifting ugly sweaters and decades-old chestnuts for the holidays? This year, try stuffing those stockings with something a little different: health coverage for your friends and family! Enroll America’s “Get Covered America,” campaign is offering Healthy Homecoming E-Cards this holiday season on their website, so you can send loving reminders to your loved ones.

With many charitable organizations now accepting online donations, there has been a paradigm shift in how we view gift-giving in the United States. Instead of buying expensive objects, many Americans are choosing to make donations on behalf of their loved ones. Rather than donate money this yuletide, with Enroll America’s Get Covered E-Cards you could help an uninsured loved one get low-cost or no-cost health insurance through the new Medicaid Expansion or the New Mexico Health Exchange. Sometimes all it takes is to let them know that you care.

And with 2014 coverage beginning in just 15 days, tis the season for healthcare! Enroll America’s three-step Healthy Homecoming process helps you start the conversation and get your nearest & dearest on the path to coverage this holiday season.


- Stephanie Grilo, Health Action NM Story Banker and Young Adult Outreach Coordinator


Health Action

If History Were Taught Through Stories, It Would Never be Forgotten



You’re a bit nervous to approach the woman in line. She’s wearing a worn woolen sweater that has the charm of that twice removed cousin-in-law of yours you only see at weddings and the occasional reunion. The woman seems nice enough, however all that research you did on, “how to make someone feel comfortable,” and “what not to do when conducting an interview” slinks away to the confides of your mind. You flip through those analogs for the right greeting you learned back in etiquette school when you were five. You decide on, “Hello.” It works. You follow up with, “How are you today?” She responds how any other individual standing outside in the mud of a free dental clinic would, “Tired.” You relate.

You then engage in a conversation about how she came to find out about New Mexico’s Mission of Mercy, a free dental clinic that only occurs every year and a half. What comes from this conversation is a remarkable story about an immigrant family torn from each other and how a simple dentist visit is not as easy as you would think. In fact, impossible for this woman in her beautifully worn woolen sweater. Her name was Lucia. Her mother was diagnosed with skin cancer a few years ago, but she could not get onto Medicaid or Medicare in the United States because of her immigrant status. Their family was eventually torn from one another. All over the access to healthcare.

As a story collector, you get to experience a world of characters. You begin to notice the subtle nuances of your subjects, how their smile reflects a certain joy, their tears sting your soul, and how the overall breadth of their personal stories move you and others. Philip Pullman, a children’s novelist, once said, “After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” It is because of stories we find solidarity rather than anonymity. It is because of stories we relate rather than hate. It is because of stories we can transmute barriers and find solutions. Stories define you, they define me, and, “have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can't remember who we are or why we're here” (Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees). Click here to read Lucia's story.

- Stephanie Grilo, Story Banker and Young Adult Outreach Coordinator


Health Action

Nov. 1st Convening drew diverse health leaders


From left to right: Barbara Webber, Joe Martinez, Danielle Boudreau, Melanie Herrera Bortz, Kate Doehring & Erik Lujan at Health Action NM's Central NM Regional Convening, 11/1/2013.

On November 1st we held our first-ever regional convening on health care Outreach & Enrollment. It was a great success! With over 80 health leaders from a diverse set of backgrounds, we had a wide range of representation from various players in the enrollment field.

One of the most exciting outcomes from the convening was participants' interest in continuing the dialogue. There are so many groups doing great work surrounding outreach and enrollment in our state, it is time that we join together to work towards the same goal: enrolling New Mexicans in health coverage.

Health Action NM two more convenings during open enrollment - one for southern NM in December 2013, and one for northern NM in January 2014. Stay tuned for details!

Health Action