NM Legislature, Day 18

The $64,000 question: Why is it taking so long?

Short answer: 
The Health Security Act is not the only bill out there!*

Long answer:
Most committees hear bills in the order in which the bills were referred to that committee, so we need to wait our turn. 

Both of the Health Security Act's first committee assignments—the House Health & Human Services Committee and the Senate Public Affairs Committee—are already fielding full dockets.** The Health & Human Services Committee is even meeting this Saturday! (The committee’s regularly scheduled days are Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.)

So, as hard as it is, we need to be patient.

Hopeful outlook: 
It looks as though both bills may be heard toward the end of next week. For the latest developments, please sign up for our email alerts.

* Fun fact #1
: So far, 437 bills have been introduced in the Senate and 449 have been introduced in the House, for a grand total of 886 bills. The last day to introduce legislation is February 14. 

** Fun fact #2: Both the House Health & Human Services Committee and the Senate Public Affairs Committee are chaired by Health Security Act sponsors: Rep. Debbie Armstrong on the House side and Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino on the Senate side.

NM Legislature, Day 11

Health Security Act Update

There’s no movement on the Health Security Act (SB 279 and HB 295) just yet—to stay in the loop, sign up for our email alerts. First committee in the Senate is Public Affairs; first committee in the House is Health & Human Services.

While you’re waiting, check out two recent news pieces on Health Security: an editorial in the Las Cruces Sun-News and an article in the Albuquerque-area Alibi. For additional media coverage, take a look at our In the Media page.

And if you’re in the mood for more reading, the 2019 Health Security Act is posted at the bottom of our The Plan page, along with a table of contents and an index to help you navigate your way through the bill. The Plan Summary is also useful in this regard.

Campaign Member Organizations

We have seven new member organizations!

  • Indivisible Nob Hill

  • Rio Arriba County Community Health Council

  • International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 611

  • Las Vegas/San Miguel Chamber of Commerce

  • CWA Legislative Council

  • Centro Savila

  • Sandoval County Health Council

What do Campaign member organizations do? They publicly support passage of the Health Security Act (in their communities and, for those who can, at the legislature); they talk about Health Security to their members and associates; and they encourage their membership and others to individually get involved by signing up for Health Security email alerts and contacting their legislators. 

When we advocate for the Health Security Act, we have the power of our 160+ member organizations behind us.

2019 Health Security Act Introduced

[Updated January 24, 2019 to include all sponsor names]

SB279 front page.JPG

The 2019 Health Security Act was introduced in both houses of the New Mexico legislature on January 21. 

In the Senate, it’s bill number 279 (so, SB 279); in the House, it’s bill number 295 (so, HB 295). For committee assignments, see “What Happens Next?” below.

The full bill is available on our The Plan page, along with a table of contents and index.

Senate Bill

Sens. Carlos Cisneros, Jerry Ortiz y Pino, Bill Soules, Richard Martinez, and Peter Wirth introduced the Health Security Act in the State Senate.

Sen. Cisneros, who is vice chair of the Senate Finance Committee, noted that “passage of the Health Security Act this year will initially result in a prudent fiscal analysis of the details of the plan. No other steps will be taken until we are certain that the finances will work and that it will be revenue neutral.” As Sen. Cisneros indicated, the first phase of the Act will be a fiscal analysis to make certain that the Health Security Plan is financially feasible. Only after that is determined will the plan be set up.

Sen. Ortiz y Pino, chair of the Senate Public Affairs Committee, observed that “the time has come for the Health Security Act. I feel that it will pass the legislature this year and start us on the path to financially sustainable, affordable, quality health care for all New Mexicans.”

House Bill

Reps. Debbie Armstrong, Bobby Gonzales, Gail Chasey, Patricia Roybal Caballero, and Joanne Ferrary introduced the Health Security Act in the State House of Representatives.

Sen. Armstrong, who chairs the Health and Human Services Committee, noted, “The Health Security Act will make a great improvement in our lives. It is a systemic solution that ensures that all New Mexicans will have health insurance coverage with comprehensive benefits. Since the premiums will be on a sliding scale based on income, working families will be able to afford it.”

Over 160 New Mexico organizations support the Health Security Act, and 35 counties and municipalities have passed resolutions in support. The most recent was the City of Albuquerque, which passed its resolution with a bipartisan 9-0 vote.

What Happens Next?

Each bill has been assigned to three committees.

HB 295 committees: Health & Human Services, then State Government, Elections & Indian Affairs, then Appropriations & Finance

SB 279 committees: Public Affairs, then Judiciary, then Finance

The bill goes to each assigned committee in turn. If your senator or representative is on a committee that’s considering the Health Security Act, we’ll be asking you to call to express your support for passage. And of course when the bill gets to the full House or Senate, all the legislators have a chance to vote. (For more information on how the legislative process works, take a look at our handy guide.)

That means that this is a great time to make sure you know who your legislators are, in both the House and the Senate. You can find out online, using the legislature’s Find My Legislator tool, or you can call your county clerk and ask.

We’ll keep you posted about when committee hearings on the bill will take place. We need lots of supporters to fill the hearing rooms!

If you’re not already on our email list and you want to stay informed, please sign up here.

Legislature Convenes Tomorrow

2019 Health Security Act

The legislative session begins at noon tomorrow, and the Health Security Act should be introduced soon. We’ll let you know as soon as we have a bill number.

Other Bills of Interest

The Health Security Act requires a fiscal analysis prior to implementation, and it will take at least three years, assuming the fiscal analysis is positive, to set up the Health Security Plan. What this means is that there is definitely a role for interim measures to protect state residents, expand access to health care, and attempt to control costs.

In addition to the Medicaid buy-in proposal, there will be other important pieces of legislation that deal with select health care issues right now. We are expecting bills to be introduced that:

  • Put in place protections for New Mexicans with preexisting conditions.

  • Prohibit “junk plans”—insurance plans that lack the ten essential benefits required under the Affordable Care Act. (For more on this, see point #2 in our summer blog post.)

  • Address “surprise billing,” which happens when someone who has private insurance goes to a hospital or clinic that is within their plan’s network, but is treated (at much higher cost) by a provider who is out of network.

  • Require state agencies to engage in joint efforts to purchase pharmaceutical drugs and initiate other cost containment approaches.

These interim measures will help New Mexico residents get the care they need while the Health Security Plan is being set up.

Getting a Bill Passed

We’ve put together this handy guide to how the legislature works—both officially and behind the scenes. If this is the first time you’ve been following a bill through the New Mexico legislature, it’s a great introduction to the process. And if it isn’t your first rodeo, please share with someone who doesn’t know as much!

Health Security 2019: Ready to Roll!

Ready to Roll!

New Mexico's Speaker of the House, Rep. Brian Egolf, recently had this to say about the upcoming legislative session:

"I think Health Security Act is top of the list. I think that will certainly be able to pass the House. We're going to have a governor supporting that as well, which will be exciting."

– Rep. Egolf on Retake Our Democracy radio program, 11-17-18

We're certainly excited!

Endorsements from Los Alamos and Albuquerque

We have a new city/county on board! On November 13, the Los Alamos County Council (the City of Los Alamos and Los Alamos County have a joint governing board) voted 5-0 to pass a resolution supporting the Health Security Act. Approval was bipartisan, with 4 Democrats and 1 Republican casting votes in favor of Health Security. Watch the discussion here (Health Security begins at 1:13:45).

The following week, on November 19, the Albuquerque City Council renewed their commitment to the Health Security Act, unanimously passing a resolution in support. The vote was 9-0 and bipartisan, with all 6 Democrats and all 3 Republicans voting in favor of the Health Security Act.

Albuquerque City Council votes in favor of Health Security

Albuquerque City Council votes in favor of Health Security

Health Security supporters after the Albuquerque City Council meeting

Health Security supporters after the Albuquerque City Council meeting

For a full list of cities and counties that have endorsed the Health Security Act, click here

Albuquerque Forum on Faith and Politics

On November 18, the Albuquerque Forum on Faith and Politics hosted a panel on the Health Security Act at St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church. Over fifty people attended, and more were able to watch the live stream from their homes. Watch a video of the forum here

New Member Organizations

Along with lots of new individual supporters, we welcome the following organizations to the Campaign:

  • Saint Therese Parish and Catholic School (Albuquerque)

  • Albuquerque Democratic Socialists of America

  • Heat & Frost Insulators & Asbestos Workers LU 76

  • Tri-County Farmers Market (Las Vegas)

  • La Mesa Presbyterian Church (Albuquerque)

For a full list of Campaign member organizations, click here.

Election Results & Health Security

Election Results: Good News for Health Security!

On Tuesday, the people of New Mexico elected a new governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has publicly expressed her support for the NM Health Security Act.

And our newly elected lieutenant governor, Howie Morales, has been a chief Senate sponsor of the Health Security Act (along with Sen. Carlos Cisneros) since 2015.

As for our state representatives, at least eight new members of the NM House of Representatives have been elected whom we believe are in favor of Health Security. This group includes a former member of the Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign's governing board, Dr. Bill Pratt (district 27)!

All of this means that we have support in high places. Clearly the time has come for Health Security! 

January Coming Up Fast

With the elections over, there are only two more months until the 2019 legislative session begins.

Let's make them count!

What can you do?

  • Talk to friends, neighbors, coworkers, and family members about Health Security. It is so important to spread the word.

  • Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper stating why you support Health Security. (Click here for thoughts on points to make.)

  • Contact your newly elected (or reelected) representative. Congratulate them and ask them to help with passage of the Health Security Act in 2019. Ask your friends and coworkers to contact their representatives as well!

  • And don't forget your senators! It will take two houses to pass the Health Security Act.

With the elections behind us, now is the time to reach out to your elected representatives to tell them that you support Health Security, and to urge them to support it as well.

So let's keep pushing.  We are sooooo close.

Health Care Is #1 Election Issue

Health Care Is #1 Election Issue

Health care is the top issue of interest to voters, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. 

Kaiser chart.png

Heading into the midterm elections, 71% of people named health care as a "very important" issue, ahead of the economy and jobs at 64%.

And when asked to pick just one issue, 30%—almost a third of respondents—selected health care. The next highest issue (the economy and jobs) was selected by 21% of respondents. 

A Threat to Repeal, Again

One reason for the widespread worry over health care may be the continued threats by Republicans in Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act. 

Just last week, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell said that if Republicans maintain their majority in Congress following the midterm elections, they'll try again to do away with the Affordable Care Act

This comes despite the fact that voters are particularly concerned about losing the Affordable Care Act's protections for people with preexisting conditions.

Vote Today; Your Actions Matter!

So what can you do?

  • VOTE in the midterm elections! And remind your friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances in other states to get out and vote too!

    Early voting is already under way in New Mexico—where we're all electing a new governor, and many of us are electing new congressional representation. Election day is November 6.

What else can you do?

Continue to support Health Security so that New Mexico succeeds, no matter what happens on the national level.

  • Donate to the Campaign to help Health Security gain even greater support.

  • Talk to people you know about Health Security (see our helpful talking points).

  • Contact us to present to your professional, action-oriented, or neighborhood group.

We have the opportunity to take control of our health care destiny. So be sure you and everyone you know votes!

Medicaid Buy-In

There's been a lot of buzz recently about the possibility of Medicaid buy-in—allowing New Mexicans who are not currently eligible for Medicaid to buy into this public insurance program.

Medicaid, as you probably know, is a federal program, administered by the states, that provides health care coverage to lower-income Americans. Under the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid was expanded to include those earning up to 138% of the federally designated poverty level (this amounts to $34,638 for a family of 4). Medicare, in contrast, is a federal program that provides health care coverage to older Americans, beginning at age 65.

Why are people talking about Medicaid buy-in, and what is it? While the number of uninsured New Mexico residents has dropped dramatically since passage of the Affordable Care Act, there are still an estimated 180,000 people without health care coverage in our state. Allowing people to pay into the Medicaid system to gain access to good health coverage would help close that gap. (People would pay a premium, as they do with private insurance, to buy into Medicaid.) 

In 2018, the NM legislature passed a memorial (a "formal expression of legislative desire" that doesn't have the force of law) in favor of studying the feasibility of this proposal. A study would look at affordability, eligibility, benefit package, impact on medical providers (Medicaid reimbursement rates are generally low), and possibilities for federal funding. Clearly, the cost of such a program is critical to its feasibility. 

Our take on Medicaid buy-in: In 2019, there is a great probability that the Health Security Act will pass and become law. (Democratic gubernatorial candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham has publicly come out in support of the bill, and the fall elections will hopefully bring in even more pro-Health Security legislators.) But it will take time (approximately three years) for the Health Security Plan to be up and running. Setting up our own homegrown health plan needs to be done carefully, with lots of public input. 

In the meantime, it's important for as many New Mexicans as possible to have health coverage. Therefore, we don't see a conflict between this interim solution and the Health Security Plan. 

What we're working for with the Health Security Act is a systemic solution to the problems we face due to our complex, out-of-control private health insurance system. 

Dismantling the Affordable Care Act

Four Moves by the Trump Administration to Weaken Obamacare

The Trump administration continues to chip away at the health care law commonly known as Obamacare. 

The full name of the law is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and both patient protections and affordability are under attack.

1. Do You Have a Preexisting Condition?

Despite candidate Donald Trump's promises, President Donald Trump is going after protections for people with preexisting conditions.

In February, 20 Republican state attorneys general sued the federal government, saying that the removal of the ACA's individual mandate (see section 3 below)—a change that was tucked away in last year's tax overhaul—has made the whole Affordable Care Act unconstitutional.

The Justice Department has now refused to defend the ACA against this suit, arguing that "the parts of the law guaranteeing coverage to people with health conditions and charging them the same rates should be struck down" along with the individual mandate. (Kaiser Health News, June 8, 2018)

Result: If health insurers are once again allowed to deny coverage to people with preexisting conditions or charge them outlandish rates, those of us who have preexisting conditions will once again be uninsurable on the individual market. (With the Justice Department aligning itself with the ACA's Republican challengers, Democratic state attorneys general will be defending the ACA in court.)

2. Coverage That Doesn't Cover Much

To ensure that health insurance actually provides comprehensive coverage, the ACA established 10 essential health benefits, all of which must be provided to patients without annual caps on the dollars spent.

© Families USA

© Families USA

On June 19, the US Department of Labor issued a rule that will allow policies to be sold that do not have to include these 10 vital benefits and that can once again cap benefits for coverage in these essential areas. These small-group policies will be available to associations covering small businesses or groups of people in the same profession or geographic area. 

Result: While these policies will likely be less expensive, they will not provide comprehensive coverage, potentially leaving people without coverage (or with very limited coverage) for such basics as pregnancy, mental health issues, and prescriptions.

And because healthy people who are currently purchasing health insurance on the state insurance exchanges may head instead for these cheaper but substandard options, the costs for those left in the exchange (who may be less healthy) will likely rise.

3. Removing the Individual Mandate

These developments come on top of earlier moves to remove portions of the ACA that were designed to keep health insurance affordable. To make sure that everyone had coverage, and to keep costs down (the bigger the pool, the lower the premiums and out-of-pocket costs), the ACA included what's known as the individual mandatea requirement that most Americans either purchase health insurance or pay a fine. (The insurance industry was in full support of this mandate provision.)

Shortly after his inauguration, President Trump issued an executive order that in effect stopped enforcement of the individual mandate, and the Republican tax code overhaul last fall removed it as of January 2019.

Result: The individual mandate made exchange policies more affordable by bringing more, and healthier, people into the exchanges. With fewer and less healthy people in the exchanges, insurers will continue to raise premiums.

And, of course, those who now opt not to carry health insurance have no coverage if an emergency or a health condition should arise. (Which will in turn increase the financial burden on hospitals as the number of unpaid patient bills rises. In health care, everything is connected.)

So, now we are faced with returning to many of the health challenges we faced before passage of the ACA. And there is more . . .

4. Increasing Patients' Share of Medical Costs

President Trump also ended the ACA's cost-sharing reduction payments to insurers, which were federal dollars going to insurance companies (and passed along to hospitals and doctors) to help low-income consumers afford their deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.

Result: Hospital costs, which are already rising, are expected to increase even further to compensate for the growing inability of low-income patients to cover their deductibles and copays.

Health Security: Marching On & Gaining Ground

At the Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign, we continue our important work to gain support for a different approach to health care coverage. We recently welcomed two new member organizations: Retake Our Democracy and the Santa Fe chapter of Democratic Socialists of America.

Our support is growingthank you!but we need your help to ensure that Health Security remains an issue in the 2018 elections. So, please:

  • Let candidates know how you feel.

  • Get educated about the Health Security Plan. Let us know if you want to take a workshop.

  • Spread the word to your friends, neighbors, and coworkers!

In line with that last point, check out our new quarter-page handoutand print out a few to keep with you, in case you meet someone who wants to learn more. Our talking points are also helpful for explaining Health Security to others.

Dana Millen on the Air

Dana Millen at KFUN in Las Vegas, NM, April 2018

Dana Millen at KFUN in Las Vegas, NM, April 2018

Dana Millen, the Campaign's education and outreach coordinator, is a very busy woman.

She presents to groups who are interested in learning about the Health Security Act, updates Campaign member organizations, and runs Health Security bill workshops and speakers' trainings.

Since local people know their own communities best, she reaches out to individual Health Security supporters to help her set up meetings with organizations and community leaders in their cities or towns.

Dana also uses opportunities like radio shows to educate a broader audience. An interview recorded in May for the KSFR (Santa Fe) radio program Retake Our Democracy ran on June 30; you can listen to it here

Dana has a master's degree in public health and a PhD in interdisciplinary studies, with a focus on public policy and leadership. She worked for the Campaign from 2003 to 2012 and returned in 2017, after spending 5 years as manager of the New Mexico Department of Health's Comprehensive Cancer Program with the Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Bureau in Albuquerque. Earlier in her career, she spent 7 years as a community health developer in rural communities in southern New Mexico.

Mini Handout (For All Occasions!)

At our statewide meeting at the end of April, several people requested a smaller, more concise Health Security handout—something they could print out and give to interested friends or colleagues, or pass out at an event. So we put together this two-sided, quarter-page mini handout:

mini handout front and back.JPG

To print out at home, click here. For best results, print out "actual size" rather than "fit to page." And remember, it's double-sided!

If you're printing out multiple copies at a print or copy shop, and the shop is doing the cutting, click here for a version without cutting guidelines. 

Debut in Los Alamos

Our mini handout had its public debut in Los Alamos, where Health Security supporters Tyler Taylor, Susan Gisler (pictured below), and Galen Gisler (pictured below) put together a Health Security table at Chamberfest. 


April 28 Statewide Meeting

(Photo courtesy of Malcolm Panthaki)

(Photo courtesy of Malcolm Panthaki)

alert intro.JPG

Report on the April 28 Statewide Meeting in Albuquerque

Executive Committee chair Max Bartlett and Executive Committee member Maury Castro opened the meeting, which was packed with supporters from around the state.

Attendees appreciated morning appearances by several candidates for governor and lieutenant governor, all of whom expressed their support for Health Security. 

Michelle Lujan Grisham spoke in the early morning, and Jackie Apodaca and other representatives from Jeff Apodaca's campaign were introduced a little later in the day. Candidate for lieutenant governor Sen. Howie Morales, who (along with Sen. Carlos Cisneros) sponsored the Health Security Act in the Senate, addressed the crowd in the morning, as did Rick Miera, who is also running for lieutenant governor. 

While the Campaign is a nonpartisan organization and does not get involved in campaigns for political office, we welcome candidates' support for the Health Security Act. We're excited to see that Health Security is an important issue for these candidates! 

Our first scheduled speaker was Rev. David Rogers of First Christian Church in Carlsbad, who urged attendees to take action and to get involved to make Health Security happen.

Rev. David Rogers (photo courtesy of Willard Hunter)

Rev. David Rogers (photo courtesy of Willard Hunter)

Next up was a discussion of the Campaign's unique strategy, with Max Bartlett, Executive Committee Chair; Mary Feldblum, Executive Director; and Dana Millen, Education and Outreach Coordinator

They emphasized that the Health Security Act has been developed over many years by listening to New Mexicans across the state and by coming up with solutions to the problems they raised regarding setting up our own health care plan. Dana also noted that few people know that we worked with Sen. Jeff Bingaman to ensure that the Affordable Care Act included waivers for state innovation, an important provision that is still in place today.

Mary Feldblum, Executive Director; Max Bartlett, Executive Committee Chair; and Dana Millen, Education and Outreach Coordinator

Mary Feldblum, Executive Director; Max Bartlett, Executive Committee Chair; and Dana Millen, Education and Outreach Coordinator

Rep. Debbie Armstrong, who (along with Rep. Bobby Gonzales) sponsored the Health Security Act in the House in 2017 and plans to do so again in 2019, then took the microphone--we actually had a sound system this time!--to talk about the path to Health Security. 

She emphasized that even after passage, Health Security will take time to implement, and she noted that there are interim solutions being proposed--like a Medicaid buy-in option--that could help people in the meantime.

Rep. Debbie Armstrong (photo courtesy of Malcolm Panthaki)

Rep. Debbie Armstrong (photo courtesy of Malcolm Panthaki)

After Rep. Armstrong spoke, Rep. Gail Chasey, Sen. Bill Soules, and Sen. Liz Stefanics joined her for a panel discussion on the importance of talking to candidates about Health Security and letting them know why you personally support it--tell your story! In addition to talking to candidates, they noted that a good way to spread the word about Health Security is through the groups and organizations that you belong to. There was also time for the audience to ask panel members questions.

Rep. Gail Chasey, Rep. Debbie Armstrong, moderator Mary Feldblum, Sen. Bill Soules, and Sen. Liz Stefanics

Rep. Gail Chasey, Rep. Debbie Armstrong, moderator Mary Feldblum, Sen. Bill Soules, and Sen. Liz Stefanics

In the afternoon, a panel of experienced Health Security supporters and organizers gave their advice, and meeting participants had another chance to ask questions and offer suggestions.

John Mezoff, MD; Mitch Rekow, Albuquerque Teachers Federation; moderator Dana Millen; Roberto Roibal, CWA and SouthWest Organizing Project; and Lorie MacIver, RN, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees District 1199

John Mezoff, MD; Mitch Rekow, Albuquerque Teachers Federation; moderator Dana Millen; Roberto Roibal, CWA and SouthWest Organizing Project; and Lorie MacIver, RN, National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees District 1199

Some ideas from attendees:

  • Create a "speakers bureau" of people who are able to present on and speak knowledgeably about Health Security
  • Set up meetings/presentations to and with a variety of groups
  • Get the word out through tabling at other events
  • Develop a brochure and/or other brief materials that supporters can download from the website and hand out to interested individuals (We're working on this!) [UPDATE: click here for a quarter-page handout.]
Thank you to everyone who came! So much wonderful energy!  

Thank you to everyone who came! So much wonderful energy!  

Next Steps

Everyone who came to the statewide meeting left with a personal list of actions they are going to take to help get Health Security passed in 2019. (Thank you, everyone!)

If you weren't able to attend the meeting, here are some ideas. Let us know what you're able to do to help!