Tuesday, April 08, 2008

NM-Sen: Udall Walks a Day in an Albuquerque Doctor's Shoes

Walk a Day in My Shoes: Tom Udall/Elizabeth Burpee

To read more about Rep. Udall's day with Dr. Elizabeth Burpee, as well as view more photos and video from their day together that's been posted at the SEIU Walk a Day in My Shoes website, click here.

The DSCC News Center has coverage on an AP story about Rep. Tom Udall, Dem candidate for U.S. Senate in New Mexico, spending a day in the life of an Albuquerque doctor on April 4th. Rep. Udall's experience was part of a program called "Walk a Day in My Shoes," sponsored by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU):

Udall joined Dr. Elizabeth Burpee, a resident internist at UNM Hospital and union member, on her rounds at the Family Clinic and to several hospital departments Friday afternoon to learn more about the plight of low-income patients and the difficulties of treating them.

During the afternoon at the hospital and clinic, Udall got an earful about emergency room overcrowding, overworked residents, low-income patients being discharged who are unable to afford their medications or hospital equipment and other problems.

Udall is the fifth Senate candidate in the country to participate in the program this election season. His Republican opponents in the Senate race—Reps. Heather Wilson and Steve Pearce—also were invited to participate in the program, but have not responded, said Marcus Mrowka, an SEIU spokesman.

UdallwalkUdall also talked with other health care providers:

Among the hospital workers Udall talked with was Dr. Cynthia Arndell, who discussed the barriers to providing low-income patients with quality health care, like the dehumanization of health care, a lack of a holistic approach to patient care, too many physicians writing too many prescriptions and the inappropriate use of services, like patients using the emergency room for non-emergency procedures.

... Arndell said Congress could provide financial incentives, such as lower cost loans, to medical students who go into primary care, find ways to retain physicians who are in primary care and look at how medical students and residents are trained.

Dr. Tom Shiffler, an internal medicine resident at the clinic, said he felt like he had post-traumatic stress syndrome from working with low-income patients, but being unable to adequately help them.

"I felt like I had a decent amount of medical knowledge, but absolutely no tools or no idea how to deal with a patient like this," he said.

Rep. Udall's response?

Asked about his day spent with Burpee, Udall said he got a better sense of what it's like for residents who formerly had to work unlimited hours a week, but now are limited to 80 hours a week.

"I think we're really pushing the envelope at 80 hours, especially following her around and getting a sense of what she's doing in her 80 hours. It's very intensive," he said. "It's exhausting work."

SeiuClick to learn more about SEIU's Walk a Day in My Shoes program and see who else has participated so far as a candidate.

To see our previous coverage of the 2008 U.S. Senate race in New Mexico, visit our archive.

April 8, 2008 at 02:22 PM in 2008 NM Senate Race, Healthcare, Labor | Permalink | Comments (2)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

NM Alliance for Retired Americans Hosts NM-01 Candidate Issue Forums

The New Mexico Alliance for Retired Americans has scheduled a series of educational Issue Forums for the candidates for the US House of Representatives, New Mexico Congressional District 1. Find out their views on important issues like  Health Care and Medicare Plus:

Friday, April 4, 11:30 AM-12:30 PM; Issue: Prescription Drugs
   Barelas Senior Center
   714 Seventh Street SW
   Albuquerque, NM

Saturday, April 19, 12:30-1:30 PM; Issue: Retiree Health Care
   Los Volcanes Senior Center
   6500 Los Volcanes NW
   Albuquerque, NM 87121

Light refreshments will be available at each forum. Sponsored by: New Mexico Alliance for Retired Americans; Emil Shaw, President; 1608 Truman SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108; 505-892-3480 or 505-321-4603.

April 3, 2008 at 06:51 PM in Events, Healthcare, NM-01 Congressional Seat 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Tonight & Sunday: Last Two Town Hall Meetings with NM Sen. Ortiz y Pino

The last two in a series of four town hall meetings with NM District 12 Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino (and possibly additional guests and elected officials) are set for tonight and Sunday, each covering a different topic. Come and hear about what did (and didn't!) happen during the 2008 Legislative Session. For more information: 505-256-0668 or desibrown@comcast.net.

Wednesday, April 2, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
Townhall Meeting on Electoral and Ethics Issues. It takes place at Heights Community Center (824 Buena Vista SE - Albuquerque).

Sunday, April 6, 4:00 - 6:00 PM
Townhall Meeting on Health Care Issues. It takes place at Senator Ortiz y Pino's residence (400 12th Street NW - Albuquerque).

April 2, 2008 at 10:35 AM in Ethics & Campaign Reform, Events, Healthcare, Local Politics, NM Legislature 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New Report Tallies Likely NM Deaths Due to Lack of Health Coverage

From Families USA:
Five people die each week in New Mexico because they don’t have health insurance, says a new report by Families USA, the national organization for health care consumers. The Families USA report, the first-ever state-specific report of this type, is based on a groundbreaking national study by the Institute of Medicine, which in 2002 forged the direct link between a lack of health coverage and deaths from health-related causes. (Read the entire report, Dying for Coverage in New Mexico.)

“Our report highlights how our inadequate system of health coverage condemns a great number of New Mexicans to an early death simply because they don’t have the same access to health care as their insured neighbors,” Ron Pollack, Executive Director of Families USA, said today. “The conclusions are sadly clear—a lack of health coverage is a matter of life and death for many New Mexicans. Health insurance really matters in how people make their health care decisions,” Pollack said. “We know that people without insurance often forgo checkups, screenings, and other preventive care.”

As a result, he said, uninsured adults are more likely to be diagnosed with a disease, such as cancer, in an advanced stage, which greatly reduces their chance of survival. The Institute of Medicine found that uninsured adults are 25 percent more likely to die prematurely than adults with private health insurance.

Another recent academic study found that uninsured adults between the ages of 55 and 64 are even more likely to die prematurely. For this group, a lack of health insurance is the third leading cause of death, following heart disease and cancer.

The Families USA report for New Mexico makes three specific points about uninsured adults:

  • Families USA estimates that five working-age New Mexicans die each week due to lack of health insurance (approximately 260 people in 2006).
  • Between 2000 and 2006, the estimated number of adults between the ages of 25 and 64 in New Mexico who died because they did not have health insurance was nearly 1,600.
  • Across the United States, in 2006, twice as many people in that same age category died from a lack of health insurance as died from homicide.

“Too many New Mexicans are suffering because they lack access to life-saving health care,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) said today. “This growing crisis is made worse by the difficult economic times families are facing. We must find a way to tackle the problem of the uninsured.”

In its 2002 report, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 18,000 adults nationwide died in 2000 because they did not have health insurance. That estimate was later updated by the Urban Institute, which reported that at least 22,000 adults died in 2006 due to a lack of health insurance.

Families USA is the national organization for health care consumers. It is nonprofit and nonpartisan and advocates for high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans.

1201 New York Avenue NW, Suite 1100 · Washington, DC 20005
202-628-3030 · E-mail:
info@familiesusa.org · www.familiesusa.org

March 27, 2008 at 11:32 AM in Healthcare | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Americans for Democratic Action to Launch Working Families Win Project in NM

From Americans for Democratic Action (ADA):
ADA is America's most experienced independent liberal lobbying organization. In the spirit of the New Deal and ADA founders Eleanor Roosevelt, renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith, and former Senator and Vice President Hubert Humphrey we lobby through coalition partnerships, through direct advocacy, and through the media.

Our Working Families Win (WFW) project is non-profit and non-partisan and will work to change the economy in favor of working families, provide education about economic decisions made in Washington and the impacts within our local communities, and engage individuals through neighbor to neighbor communication to hold our elected officials accountable.

In 2007, our WFW project kept the fires burning around the country. WFW organizers worked in dozens of communities educating the public and elected officials about our core platform: guaranteed health care for all, fair enforceable trade agreements, and economic policies that create good jobs at living wages. WFW will stride into 2008, ready to seize the moment for working families.

In addition to our ongoing work in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Iowa, Wisconsin, and North Carolina, we will be expanding. If you're interested in supporting our organization in New Mexico or volunteering  please contact Deema Tabbara at (805) 907-6681 or adanewmexico@gmail.com.

Visit www.workingfamilieswin.org for more information on the project and visit www.adaction.org to make a contribution to our work. Also visit our blog at http://adanewmexico.blogspot.com/.

March 22, 2008 at 01:02 AM in Corporatism, Economy, Populism, Education, Healthcare, Poverty | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Hightower Uses Hildalgo County Medical Services as Example of Grassroots Change

SwimIn an excerpt from his new book, Swim Against the Current, long-time writer and activist Jim Hightower tells the grassroots success story of Charlie Alfero and the innovative community partnership he used to develop Hildalgo Medical Services, which began in Lordsburg, NM in 1994. Hildalgo County, in New Mexico's boot heel, was abandoned by copper companies and lost its hospital in 1979, and then its last doctor in 1983. You really should read the whole article, but here are a few tidbits to get you started:

There was an obvious need and demand for health services, but Hidalgo is hardly the sort of lucrative market that such profit-hungry chains as Hospital Corporation of America are willing to consider. The county's leaders realized they would have to put something together for themselves. So in 1994, they asked the state rural health office to send some experts to Lordsburg, the county seat, to help guide them. One who came was Charlie Alfero. Years previously, he had attended a small college up the road in a neighboring county, and he was glad for the chance to revisit a region he loved.

Alfero had been working with the rural outreach program of the state university's medical school, and he remembered from his earlier time in the boot heel that despite economic difficulties, the people of the area shared strong egalitarian values. He felt that they might do big things. He arrived with a vision: The people there could create a health commons of their own design -- a community complex that would provide one-stop service for medical, dental and mental healthcare, with family support services and economic development built in.

Most of Hidalgo's residents have lived in the county all of their lives and have an attachment to the area and to one another. "We stick together; we help each other in times of need," said Irene Galven, now the city clerk. It was this sense of community, the residents' willingness to throw in on projects to benefit everyone, that inspired Alfero to throw in with them.

It was not a simple project. For nearly four years, Charlie made the 600-mile round-trip commute each week from his home in Albuquerque to Lordsburg to work with eager locals to establish Hidalgo Medical Services (HMS), get it on its feet financially and get it moving -- one small step at a time.

...  A dozen years after opening its doors, HMS has become the health commons it was envisioned to be. On its tenth anniversary, it opened the doors of its new 22,000-square-foot clinic in Lordsburg, a modern, full-service facility with nine exam rooms, lab and x-ray rooms, a dental clinic with six chairs, and offices to deal with mental health problems, substance abuse and family support needs. It has a staff numbering more than 140, operating on a budget of more than $10 million a year.

In addition to Lordsburg, HMS now has clinics in six other communities in two counties, including one in Silver City, where it originally had to go to find doctors who were willing to come to Hidalgo twice a week.

"I didn't deliver healthcare," Alfero noted. "I'm not even a doctor. I just gave people an idea, pointed them in a direction and they built this themselves. People who rely on external forces to determine their future are going to find a bad future. The people in this area are showing what healthcare can be if we invest in people, not in the layers of intermediaries looking to make money off a top-heavy system. Our country needs more clinics like this."

Hightower's book, written long-time collaborator Susan DeMarco, relates other such tales of people power producing real change when other, more traditional, efforts were less than succcessful:

The inspiration came from the people themselves, people that I had come across in my travels, and I found that unlike what you find in the New York Times or on the nightly news, there is a very progressive spirit in the countryside, enormous progressive activism ... not merely in politics but also in business, the food economy, healthcare, religion, numerous different ways.

These people's stories were very uplifting, yet not being told.

Thank goodness that Hightower and others like him are willing to go where mainstream media outlets fear to (or won't) tread -- sharing inspiring tales of real change started by ordinary people in ordinary places like Hildalgo County.

March 9, 2008 at 04:33 PM in Books, Healthcare | Permalink | Comments (2)

Friday, March 07, 2008

Jason Marks: PRC/Feldman Health Insurance Bill Makes New Mexico a Leader in Consumer Protection

Jmarks_3This is a guest blog by Jason Marks, NM Public Regulation Commission Chairman, discussing an important health insurance reform bill just signed by Gov. Bill Richardson. The legislation is getting national praise and attention, including including a front-page story in USA Today:

As everyone knows by now, the 2008 New Mexico Legislature was unable to come to consensus on any of several competing healthcare reform proposals. Except that’s not entirely true. Moving through the Legislature outside of the media spotlight, a health insurance reform bill that originated with the PRC and its then-Chairman Ben Ray Luján, was passed and signed into law. This legislation, Senate Bill 226, sponsored by Senator Dede Feldman (D-Alb, below left) puts New Mexico into the forefront of consumer protection in at least two areas that help families obtain and keep needed coverage.

Dfeldman1New Mexico has become the second state in the country to enact a law limiting insurers’ ability to rescind health insurance policies and/or deny paying claims based on mis-statements on the insured’s original application for coverage. Until Senate Bill 226, insurance companies could retroactively rescind coverage during the first two years of a policy after a patient developed an expensive medical condition that the insurer didn’t want to cover. The insurer could decide that they’d rather refund your premiums and stick you with the responsibility for paying large medical bills. The insurer merely had to point to a relevant mistake or omission on the original application for coverage -- even if that mistake was unintentional. The PRC/Feldman bill raises the standard of proof so as to require the insurer to show that the applicant’s statements or omissions were willful or fraudulent.

Senate Bill 226 also extends the allowable lapse in “creditable coverage” from 63 to 95 days. Currently, if someone loses coverage under a group plan and applies for alternative coverage within 63 days, the period during which the individual was not covered is counted against any waiting periods on pre-existing conditions. The bill allows more time to seek alternate coverage. Several other states have increased their maximum lapse to around 90 days, but at 95 days, New Mexico has the most consumer-friendly standard in the nation. Lastly, Senate Bill 226 raises the minimum cap on coverage for policies under the N.M. Minimum Healthcare Protection Act from $50,000 to $100,000.

LujancommThis all started during the summer of 2007, when PRC Chairman Ben Ray Luján (right) arranged for several PRC discussions on the subject of healthcare and health insurance reform. With unanimous support from the Commission, Luján directed the PRC’s Insurance Division to look for ways to improve health insurance coverage for New Mexico families. As the options began to come together, Commissioner Luján, our Superintendent of Insurance, Mo Chavez (below left), and I met with Senator Feldman to discuss legislative approaches to healthcare reform in New Mexico. Senate Bill 226 was the result. The bill’s enactment fixes the three “gotchas” that have kept needed health insurance coverage from some families while we wait for comprehensive healthcare reform.

Mochavez_2Although Senate Bill 226 received little local media coverage, the PRC/Feldman health insurance reform legislation has drawn national attention, including a front-page story in USA Today, coverage in trade journals, and inquiries from ABC Nightly News.

The most important part of the story, is of course, that the reforms that have now been signed into law by Governor Richardson will provide real benefits to consumers. But almost as important to the long term is the change that this effort signifies at the PRC’s Insurance Division. Only two years ago, a different Superintendent of Insurance was in office and his main legislative priority that year was a bill to relax certain regulatory standards so that troubled insurance companies could relocate to New Mexico. Lobbyists were involved, as were rumors of campaign donations.

Fast forward to today, where we are seeing the fruits of commitments Commissioner Luján and I made to clean up the Insurance Division, reorient it more towards protecting and serving consumers, and to appoint a replacement Superintendent of Insurance who shared our values and vision. New Mexico may not have achieved all the healthcare reform progress that was hoped for this past year (or that is needed). But we have made to a point where we are getting national recognition for our leadership in protecting insurance consumers, and not for our regulatory failings and scandals.

This is a guest blog by Jason Marks, Chairman of the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission. Commissioner Marks is running for reelection in November and has qualified for public campaign funding for his race. Fantastic. To learn more, visit his website.

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

March 7, 2008 at 12:10 AM in 2008 PRC Election, Guest Blogger, Healthcare, NM Legislature 2008 | Permalink | Comments (7)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Health Action NM Presents Legislative Wrapup Tonight

From Health Action New Mexico:
Health Action New Mexico will host a Legislative Wrapup on health care reform and other related issues on Thursday, February 28, at 5:30 PM at the First Unitarian Church (Comanche and Carlisle) in Albuquerque. The panelists reporting will be:

  • State Senator Jerry Ortiz Y Pino
  • Ruth Hoffman, Lutheran Office of Governmental Ministries
  • Bill Jordan, New Mexico Voices for Children

Patrick Tyrrell of Health Action NM  will be the moderator. The public is encouraged to attend.

February 28, 2008 at 10:26 AM in Events, Healthcare, NM Legislature 2008 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Udall Asks Pelosi to Move Indian Health Bill to Top of House Agenda

In a statement released yesterday after the long-awaited Senate passage of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, US Rep. Tom Udall (D, NM-03), urged House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to move the bill to the top of the House’s agenda.

“Our nation’s health care system is badly in need of reform,” Udall wrote in a letter to Pelosi. “But nowhere is the issue of inadequate healthcare more acute and in need of improvement than on Native American lands and in the Indian Health Service agency.”

The legislation, which passed the Senate today by a vote of 83-10, is the first substantial overhaul of the Indian health care system in over a decade. It would provide medical care to approximately 1.8 million American Indians and would authorize spending for the Indian Health Service (IHS) for the next 10 years.

Udall acknowledges the legislation does not remedy all of the wide-reaching problems in Indian Country, however, passing the bill will mark huge progress. “While S. 1200 is not a panacea that would immediately fix every one of the problems plaguing the access to care and the quality of care for Native Americans, it is an important and long overdue step towards modernizing the Indian health care system,” he wrote.

To read the full text of Udall’s letter click here.

According to published studies from the US Indian Health Service, IHS-served populations generally suffer from a higher incidence of illness and premature death rates than the U.S. population as a whole. The study indicates that in comparison with the general population, American Indians are 6.5 times more likely to die from alcoholism, 6 times more likely to die from tuberculosis, almost three times more likely to die from diabetes and 2.5 times more likely to die in accidents. To see the full study, click here.

Udall represents a district that is 19 percent Native American. He serves a Co-Vice Chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus and is a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior and the Environment, which appropriates funding for the Indian Health Service.

February 27, 2008 at 08:58 AM in Healthcare, Native Americans | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

DEA Ordered Seizure of Medical Marijuana from Paraplegic Patient

Priorities, priorities. Goon squads on parade in New Mexico.

From the ACLU New Mexico: CARLSBAD, NM - According to a sworn affidavit filed this past week by an Eddy County law enforcement official, the seizure of medical marijuana from a local paraplegic man, "was done at the direction of and under the guidance and control of the [Drug Enforcement Administration] DEA."  The affidavit, submitted by David Edmondson, Commander of the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force, which conducted the seizure on September 4, 2007, makes clear that the federal government directed local law enforcement to seize the medical marijuana of a patient fully authorized to use the medicine under state law.

"This is yet another glaring example of the federal government's improper obstruction of states' ability to implement compassionate and sensible medical marijuana policies," said Adam Wolf, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union's Drug Law Reform Project.  "For the DEA to co-opt local law enforcement in its misguided assault on medical marijuana patients is both callous and unconstitutional."

On September 4, 2007, at least four Eddy County deputies, acting as members of the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force, arrived at the home of Leonard French in Malaga, New Mexico. French, a paraplegic who experiences intense pain and severe muscle spasms stemming from 1987 motorcycle accident, holds a license issued by the state of New Mexico identifying him as a medical marijuana patient under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act.

Assuming that the deputies had arrived to check his compliance with the state compassionate use law, French presented the deputies with his identification card and showed them his hydroponic equipment, including two small marijuana plants and three dead sprouts.  Acting under the guidance of the DEA, according to yesterday's affidavit, the deputies seized the equipment and plants and later turned them over to the federal agency.

The ACLU, which represents French in a pending legal challenge, says the seizure violated not only New Mexico's Compassionate Use Act, but also state forfeiture laws and a constitutional prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. French has not been charged with any violations of federal or state drug laws.

The affidavit is available online here. The ACLU's legal filing is available online here.

The New Mexico Legislature passed the medical marijuana bill during its 60-day Session in 2007.

See our previous post on the ACLU lawsuit on behalf of French.

February 17, 2008 at 01:22 PM in Civil Liberties, Crime, Healthcare, NM Legislature 2007 | Permalink | Comments (2)