SANTA FE, NM (KRQE) — Tens of millions of dollars from our state’s Health Care Accessibility Fund were diverted to other things last year. Health care advocates say it was wrong, and now they’re calling on the legislature not to let it happen again.
“Over the past summer, the Health and Human Services Legislative Committee met in Taos, Albuquerque, Santa Fe, Las Cruces, Gallup, and everywhere we went in this state, the problem that keeps coming back constantly is twofold: one, people don’t have a way to pay for health care, and even if they have a way to pay for health care, it’s very hard to find it,” the senator said. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, (R) Albuquerque.
Many New Mexicans shared stories of impossible decisions and circumstances they faced due to limited access to health care and coverage. “I have lived in Doña Ana County all my life. I have been working since I was 17. Despite this, there are times when I am not entitled to public assistance because I earn a little too much. Maybe five bucks. There have been years between which I have not been to the doctor. Get used to living like this,” said Juliana Hernandez, a Roundhouse Wednesday attorney.
“No one should have to face financial misery or recovery from cancer or any chronic disease. I know this all too well having battled cancer for the past 12 years,” says Lan Sena, director of policy at the Center for Civic Policy.
“My last situation was that I fell and my knees were hurt, but I needed to buy a cane but I can’t afford it,” explained America Terrazas, who was present at the meeting, “This are the kinds of decisions we have to make, you know. Food or medicine or something to help me.
“Due to insufficient federal funding, my husband and I have been restricted and denied essential care through our local Indian Health Services,” said Verna Craig, political organizer for Strong Families Forward Together. New Mexico stock.
“More than half of New Mexicans have sacrificed medical services in the past two years due to cost. Health care debt is also a crushing burden for many adults, with four in ten New Mexicans saying they have faced financial hardship due to medical bills,” said Yuko Kobayashi of the New Mexico Asian Family Center, “ Through my work with the New Mexico Asian Family Center, I see many people within Pan-Asian communities and other immigrant communities choosing to skip what can be life-saving procedures because they are not insured, underinsured or because they simply cannot afford the cost after insurance.
The Superintendent of Insurance presented plans for how the Health Care Affordability Fund will be used at the Legislative Finance Committee. The fund was passed last year to secure affordable health care for uninsured families and workers in the state. He raised the tax on insurers in the state to put about $165 million in the fund each year.
However, health care advocates say $65 million was withdrawn from the fund and used for different purposes, including, but not limited to, $10 million taken to help employee health costs. state and $31 million to Medicaid to cover the tax increase. Proponents want to ensure that every dollar goes only to affordable health care.
“The legislature used that money for programs that should have been funded from the general fund, especially in a year when there is a massive budget surplus in the state…The things it was used for weren’t were not related to making health care more affordable as outlined in the Health Care Affordability Fund Bylaw. Money from the fund should only be used to provide affordable coverage to New Mexicans,” says Alex Williams. , health policy advocate at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty.
“Because there is so much more to providing access to coverage for the many New Mexicans who are uninsured, we need every dollar of the fund to be spent on making health care more affordable,” Williams said. “It was kind of an administrative error as we understand it, it was used that way. We hope to avoid the same error happening again this year.
“Sixty-five percent of New Mexicans express uncertainty about having enough money to pay for their usual health care services,” explained Dr. Jesse Barnes of Primary Care Advocates for Healthy Communities, “Given the magnitude and complexity of this health care affordability crisis, I believe it is absolutely essential that the legislature devote the entire amount of the health care affordability fund to its intended use. destined.
“Families in our state face the toughest decision: Should I buy food or pay my medical bills? As nearly a tenth of New Mexico’s population is on the verge of losing their insurance, along with millions of Americans, more families will have been faced with the question: What is my life worth? New Mexico can lead the way in expanding health care coverage and access. My family knows what it means when we are faced with this issue and we don’t have access to it. Loved ones are dying,” Sena said.
Supporters said nearly 200,000 New Mexicans are either uninsured or underinsured.
The KRQE contacted the senators who sponsored the bill last year about using some of the funds for other programs, but we got no response.
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