Superintendent of Insurance discusses challenges, priorities during interim committee meeting

New Mexico’s Superintendent of Insurance Alice T. Kane identified some issues for her office to work on as she moves forward in her new position as the top insurance regulator in the state during her presentation to the interim Legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee on Thursday. Those challenges range from climate change to billing and cybersecurity. Kane, who started her position in mid-June, said she couldn’t offer the presentation she wanted because of a malware attack on the department’s computer system that began earlier this week. She said her department has notified the FBI but that they don’t know yet if the cyber attack had extracted any data. The OSI’s core function is to review insurance rates and make sure they are “fair and reasonable.” Because insurance providers are primarily regulated by state law, the OSI holds enforcement capability and responsibility.

Behavioral health advocates ask for $1 billion to improve and build behavioral health and substance abuse treatment facilities 

An advocate for behavioral health in Albuquerque asked the Legislative Courts, Corrections and Justice Committee for $1 billion to build a “world class” behavioral health and substance abuse treatment center in New Mexico. Connie Elizabeth Vigil, behavioral health master plan coordinator for the Bernalillo County Behavioral Health Committee and president of the Greater Albuquerque Business Alliance, said the money could be placed into an escrow account and be earmarked for the Human Services Department. She said the money is needed because there is no long-term mental health facility in the state, and that there should be five major centers in different cities around the state. Eric Olivas, a Bernalillo County commissioner, told the committee that Bernalillo County’s largest expense  is the Metropolitan Detention Center. He said 51 percent of individuals booked into the facility report some form of substance abuse and require detox.

ACLU-NM files complaint against CoreCivic over wrongful death claim

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico and a private Albuquerque attorney have filed a wrongful death lawsuit against CoreCivic, the for-profit company that operates the Torrance County Detention Facility in Estancia. ACLU-NM and Coyle & Benoit, PLLC filed the civil suit in the First Judicial District in Santa Fe on Tuesday on behalf of the estate of Kesley Vial, a Brazilian man who sought asylum in the U.S. last year. Vial died by suicide* after spending an additional two months in detention after he lost his immigration hearing in June of last year. Vial was held in immigration detention from April 2022 until staff found him unresponsive in a cell on August 17, 2022. Related: Immigrant advocacy organizations seeking answers around Brazilian man’s death by suicide while in ICE custody

The lawsuit alleges both negligence and medical negligence by CoreCivic, whose staff were aware of Vial’s deteriorating mental health, according to the complaint.

Indigenous Women Rising: Abortion fund budget has doubled since Dobbs

Representatives from the abortion fund provider Indigenous Women Rising told members of the Interim Indian Affairs Committee on Monday that their monthly abortion fund budget has doubled since the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade. Jonnette Paddy, Diné and IWR abortion fund director, told the committee on Monday that IWR previously spent $20,000 a month providing abortion patients with help to obtain an abortion but in 2021, that expenditure rose to $40,000 a month. Paddy told the committee that in 2020, IWR served 58 clients but in 2021, when Texas’ six-week gestational ban went into effect, the grassroots organization served 277 clients. Paddy said that at that time, the organization began providing what she called solidarity funding to individuals who are unhoused, are later in pregnancy, are minors, undocumented or Black. In 2022, the year of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, IWR funded 600 clients, which represented a 116 percent increase over the previous year, she said.

Problems with home visiting outlined during interim meeting

In a report presented at an interim committee Wednesday, Legislative Finance Committee staff recommended that the legislature consider allocating funds to study standards-based home visiting program outcomes for new parents. Providers of the home visiting program can choose which home visiting model they operate. State statute requires that home visiting programs be at least standards-based, which means the program must be grounded in empirically best practices and the program must rely on a curriculum linked to positive outcomes for children and families. But, the LFC report states that standards-based programs do not adhere to the same requirements as more rigorously evaluated evidence-based models. The programs do not specify the number of visits a month the parents receive, the expected length of the parent enrollment or workforce requirements.

Study: New Mexico had highest increase in abortion since 2020

Between January 2020 and June 2023, New Mexico saw a larger increase in abortion than any other state, according to a new report. The Guttmacher Institute, a policy organization based in Washington D.C. that researches reproductive health, released a new interactive data map which shows increases in abortion state by state. New Mexico saw 6,480 more abortions between January 2020 to June 2023. That amounts to a 220 percent increase. Colorado, where abortion also remains legal, saw an 89 percent increase in abortion during the same period.

Wage gap for women remains stagnant

The U.S. Census Bureau released data this week that shows that the wage gap for women continues to stagnate. Women’s wages have historically been lower than men’s wages. The Census data shows that wages have not improved significantly. Women earn, on average, 78 cents for every one dollar men make. This includes women who work part-time or seasonally.

Study finds car insurance companies reliance on credit scores could lead to higher prices for minorities

A new report released by a consumer advocacy agency says that the use of credit reporting from car insurance companies to help determine driver premiums can perpetuate racial inequity. The Consumer Federation of America spent two years analyzing data, according to Michael DeLong, research and advocacy associate for CFA and co-author of the report, The One Hundred Percent Penalty. The use of credit scores to determine car insurance premiums only reinforces and amplifies structural racism in the United States, the report states. The report found that in New Mexico, an average driver with an excellent driving record as well as excellent credit could pay, on average, $412 in annual car insurance premiums. But the average New Mexico driver with an excellent driving record but poor credit could pay $733 annually in premiums, according to the report. The report says that because car insurance companies rely on credit histories to help set driver premiums, this “disproportionately harms low-income consumers and people of color.”

David Snyder, vice president for American Property Casualty Insurance Association, disagreed with the report’s findings and said that when auto insurance companies began using credit scores to help determine premiums about 15 years ago it “improved availability of auto insurance” and that the industry lacked accurate risk predictors before credit scores began to be incorporated.

A human donor milk repository in Albuquerque needs to expand

A human donor milk repository in Albuquerque has a growing demand and, with a need to expand, is exploring a private-public partnership to do so. Erin Marshall, along with her husband Kael Marshall, started the only human donor milk repository in New Mexico. She said they did so because New Mexico had high rates of premature babies born with a condition called necrotizing enterocolitis, or NEC. Marshall said one way to think of it is as a disease that kills the neonate’s colon. She said the rate of NEC in New Mexico has decreased in recent years.

New Mexico Supreme Court sets date for oral arguments on anti-abortion ordinances 

The New Mexico Supreme Court will hear oral argument over the legality of anti-abortion ordinances some smaller jurisdictions passed last winter, creating a “patchwork” of abortion access in the state. The oral arguments will be heard at 9:30 a.m. on Dec. 13 and the parties will argue the legality of those anti-abortion ordinances now that the Reproductive and Gender-Affirming Healthcare law applies. The law, which prohibits public bodies from discriminating against reproductive or gender-affirming healthcare, passed the legislature in March. New Mexico Attorney General Raúl Torrez filed an emergency petition for writ of mandamus and request for stay with the New Mexico Supreme Court in March regarding Lea and Roosevelt counties and the cities of Hobbs and Clovis because all four had passed anti-abortion ordinances during the winter despite the fact that abortion is legal in New Mexico. 

The legislature passed HB 7, the bill that prohibits public bodies from discriminating against abortion or gender-affirming care, in March.