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Making changes to New Mexico’s Medicaid system

By   /   June 14, 2011  /   No Comments

It’s going to be an uphill climb to overcome the bureaucratic hurdles — not to mention opposition from a number of patients and interest groups — but the state’s Human Services Department (HSD) is attempting to make some major changes to New Mexico’s Medicaid system.

The HSD’s secretary, Sidonie (pronounced “Sidney”) Squier, says changes must be made because “we don’t have time to waste.”

Squier told members of the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee on Tuesday (June 14) that “we need to get moving” because the Medicaid system is unsustainable, pointing to statistics showing that Medicaid spending will rise to 16 percent of the entire state budget in fiscal year 2012. She want on to say that with health care reform scheduled to go into effect, the HSD estimates that 130,000 to 175,000 new recipients will be added to the state’s Medicaid rolls between 2014 and 2019, which equates to $300 million to $600 million in costs.

Squier showed the committee her department’s four principles for its “Medicaid Modernization Plan.” Here’s a look at them (click to enlarge the graphic):

But some members of the committee expressed some deep skepticism about the overhaul.

“I don’t think the system’s in jeopardy,” Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino (D-Albuquerque) said, challenging the HSD projections for Medicaid’s growing costs on the state level.

“You’re going to charge the people who are the sickest the most amount of money,” Rep. Eleanor Chavez (D-Albuquerque) said.

Another Democratic committee member, Rep. Antonio Lujan (D-Las Cruces), worried about how service would be affected for those with psychological needs, calling the HSD plan “the colonialization of behavorial health.”

Squier emphasized that the plans are still being worked out but insisted that alterations had to be made. “We’re not ‘going after the Medicaid program,’ ” she said. “We’re aiming at keeping it going.”

The committee room was packed with members of the public, most of whom were against the modernization plan.

Squier says HSD and its consultant, Alicia Smith, will take part in six public hearings as well as a tribal hearing across the state this summer to receive input into the proposed changes.

Here’s the schedule:

· July 6, 2011, 11:00a.m. to 1:00 p.m. – Clovis – Clovis Civic Center, 801 Schepps Blvd. (Corner of Schepps & 7th)

· July 12, 2011, 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. – Farmington – San Juan College, Room 7103, 4601 College Blvd., Farmington

· July 26, 2011, 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. – Roswell – Roswell Public Library, Bondurant Room, 301 N. Pennsylvania Ave., Roswell

· July 27, 2011, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. – Las Cruces – NM Farm and Ranch Museum Theater, 4100 Dripping Springs Rd., Las Cruces

· July 28, 2011, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. – Albuquerque – UNM Continuing Education Building, Rooms G & H, 1534 University Blvd NE, Albuquerque

· August 2, 2011, 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. – Santa Fe – Willie Ortiz Building, 2600 Cerrillos Road, Santa Fe

· August 3, 2011, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. – Tribal Consultation , Albuquerque – Location TBD

A Frequently Asked Questions paper, with more details about the Medicaid Modernization Plan and next steps, along with the schedule of public input sessions, are posted on the HSD website at www.hsd.state.nm.us/MedicaidModernization.

For a contrary view, here’s a report from New Mexico Voices for Children insisting that the current state Medicaid system is sustainable.

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Rob Nikolewski is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org based in Santa Fe, N.M. Contact him at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @NMWatchdog.

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