For Some in NM, Medicaid Funding Solution Could be Painful
SANTA FE, N.M. – The state budget deficit has the New Mexico Human Services Department trying to implement new fees for people who rely on Medicaid for their health care.
A sharp reduction in federal matching funds is the primary reason for the shortfall that's causing anxiety, both for health care providers and patients.
A proposal to add co-pays for doctor visits and prescriptions could raise up to $1.5 million of the $6 billion that are needed.
But Colin Baillio, director of policy and communications for Health Action New Mexico, says putting more financial burden on the backs of the poor is a harmful approach.
"What this really amounts to is, it's a hidden, regressive tax on the poorest and most vulnerable New Mexicans," he points out. “These types of fees for Medicaid penalize New Mexico's families who are doing the best with what they have.”
Similar budget problems last year hit New Mexico health care providers, as their reimbursement rates were cut for seeing Medicaid patients.
Baillio says that resulted in a reduction of services to the state's most financially vulnerable population.
One alternative to shifting the extra costs onto patients is making its way through the Legislature. Senate Bill 433 would increase taxes on for-profit hospitals, to help shore up the Medicaid Trust Fund.
The legislation is a monumental expression of just how dire the Medicaid situation is in New Mexico, according to Baillio.
"The hospitals are actually asking HSD to tax them, so that they can draw down some of the federal matching dollars,” he explains. “And how often do you see an industry actually asking the state to tax them?"
SB 433 would generate an estimated $52 million toward the deficit. Baillio says Health Action New Mexico wants Gov. (Susana) Martinez to either rescind the proposal to implement fees, or ask that the federal government decline the offer.
However, with Republicans working to repeal the Affordable Care Act, federal matching dollars for Medicaid could be eliminated altogether.