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Monday, August 23, 2010

Guest Blog by Sen. Dede Feldman: 10 Ways NM is Taking Advantage of Health Care Reform

DedeFeldman110 This is a guest blog by State Senator Dede Feldman, who represents District 13 in Albuquerque in the New Mexico Legislature. Senator Feldman has long been dedicated to improving access to quality health care for all. She was selected by the White House to serve as a member of State Legislators for Health Reform, is Vice Chair of the Interim Legislative Health & Human Services Committee and serves as a member of the Interim Health Care Reform Working Group.

With only five months since the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law, our state is moving to put the pieces in place, even if it comes at an awkward time when the budget is dire and a new administration is about to begin. We have already received over $40 million in grant funding -- in addition to the $20 million we received earlier to sustain our rural community health clinics. The money couldn’t come at a better time. Here’s what we’re up to.

1. Two state organizations are holding hearings and working to restructure insurance coverage here, beef up the workforce and take advantage of the many, many federal grants which will be available to both non-profits and government agencies from now until 2014, when the law goes into effect fully. One is the Governor’s Office of Health Reform. The other is the legislative working group created by Senate Joint Memorial 1 (SJM 1), which I sponsored in the past session. Debbie Armstrong, who heads up the NM High Risk Pool, chairs this group. It and has elicited lots of public participation and volunteer efforts. 

The next meeting of the working group is Thursday, September 2, in Room 322 of the State Capitol. The public is welcome to give comments. Click for more info about the working group.

2. We have a PLAN! New Mexico is one of only a few states that has a strategic plan. to implement health care reform. The plan, developed by the Governor’s Health Care Group is posted at http://www.hsd.state.nm.us/nhcr/nhcrlao.htm.

3. The Division of Insurance was awarded $1 million on Monday, August 16, to beef up its rate review process to conform to the new federal law. This is particularly significant in light of the BlueCross/Blue Shield rate hike. The Department aims to create a Consumer and Business Services Bureau to review rates, make filings public on its web site and seek legislation to consider companies’ surpluses, overall profitability, investment income and other factors when reviewing rates. Click for a chart summarizing how each state will use the new resources.

4. As of early August, about 3,500 seniors who have hit Medicare’s “Part D doughnut hole” and now must pay full price for their prescription drugs, got a tax-free $250 check in the mail to help pay for them. About 25,000 NM seniors will hit this gap in coverage this year. As they hit the upper limit, they will get a check. The new law continues to provide additional discounts for seniors in the next few years and will close the “doughnut hole “ completely by 2020.

5. New Mexico’s High Risk Pool for people who can’t currently get coverage because of pre-existing conditions opened its doors wider with $37.5 million from the federal government and a new program that will enable as many as 1,000 New Mexicans access to insurance for the first time. Currently about 20 have signed up. Many of these had pre-existing conditions like cancer or heart disease. Others are in the pipeline.

6. New Mexico has received a grant for $1 million for its home visiting program, which will enable nurses and community health workers to go into the homes of first time mothers to help develop good parenting skills. This will prevent domestic violence, special education expenses and get kids off to healthy start.

7. Funds for training nurses, doctors and primary care providers are a key element of the new bill. NM recently received approximately $700,000 for nursing programs, and applied for much more workforce development money. Provision of this support was an addition to the Affordable Care Act by our own Sen. Jeff Bingaman.

8. Doctors who treat Medicare patients will be getting up to $63,000 per practice over a six year period to speed the installation and use of electronic health records in their practices.

9. Community Health Clinics like First Choice, which have been treating the uninsured for years, received $21 million in stimulus funds, which they are using to build additions and meet the increased demand for health care.

10. New Mexico is applying for a $1 million planning grant to establish a strong state health insurance exchange with the help of stakeholders from many sectors.

This is a guest blog by Senator Dede Feldman. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page.

August 23, 2010 at 05:01 PM in Gov. Bill Richardson, Guest Blogger, Healthcare, NM Legislature 2010, Obama Health Care Reform | Permalink


$37500.00 per person in high risk pool for insurance coverage not actual care? 37.5 million bucks. WOW!

Posted by: qofdisks | Aug 24, 2010 9:37:15 PM

It's a pool that continues. It doesn't get divided like that.

Posted by: provider | Aug 24, 2010 11:11:07 PM

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