That’s how Sylvia Villarreal, CEO and owner of Taos Clinic for Youth, described telemedicine and its place in rural healthcare. Villarreal has offered limited telehealth services, also referred to as telemedicine, to patients for about eight years.
Telehealth refers to healthcare services that are administered remotely between patient and doctor, typically over video using a broadband connection. In theory, telehealth could significantly expand access to healthcare in rural communities. But implementing telehealth across the U.S. has proved challenging for a number of reasons — insurance coverage and reimbursement being one of the larger roadblocks to adoption for providers. After a recent push at the federal level to expand telehealth service reimbursements for Medicaid and Medicare patients in response to COVID-19, one of the biggest challenges to adoption has suddenly been removed.
U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján announced Tuesday that he supports Medicare-for-all. The Assistant Speaker of the House, the fourth-highest position in Democratic leadership in the chamber, made the announcement as he seeks the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. His opponent in the primary, Maggie Toulouse Oliver, supports Medicare-for-all. Luján told NM Political Report between votes on Wednesday that he supports the legislation because it emphasizes “that healthcare is a fundamental right, not a privilege for the few.”
Toulouse Oliver said on Twitter she is glad that Luján “has come on board with the latest issue I’ve supported from Day 1.” Luján signed onto the bill sponsored by Washington Democrat Pramila Jayapal.
The health care debate has Democrats on Capitol Hill and the presidential campaign trail facing renewed pressure to make clear where they stand: Are they for “Medicare for All”? Or will they take up the push to protect the Affordable Care Act? Obamacare advocates have found a powerful ally in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who in a recent “60 Minutes” appearance said that concentrating on the health law is preferable to Medicare for All. She argued that since the ACA’s “benefits are better” than those of the existing Medicare program, implementing Medicare for All would mean changing major provisions of current Medicare, which covers people 65 and up as well as those with disabilities. This talking point — one Pelosi has used before — seems tailor-made for the party’s establishment.
What will remain of the Affordable Care Act in a year or two? Maybe very little, some New Mexico lawmakers worry. While Democrats in the state House of Representatives have talked a lot about expanding access to Medicaid, many are also trying to hold the line on the landmark and controversial health care law also known as Obamacare, bracing for big changes as 18 attorneys general challenge its constitutionality in federal court. House Democrats are sponsoring legislation that would write several provisions of the Affordable Care Act into New Mexico law with hopes that no matter what happens at the federal level, the state can keep in place some of the standards for covering mental health care, for example, and protections for patients with pre-existing conditions. “We’re in that group,” said state Rep. Liz Thomson, D-Albuquerque, a breast cancer survivor whose son has autism.
Gov. Susana Martinez believes the health care overhaul bill that Senate Republicans are currently working on would hurt New Mexico and says they should instead work on a bipartisan effort. After NM Political Report and other outlets asked Martinez her stance on the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill, Martinez’s office released a statement. Spokesman Joseph Cueto said it is “perfectly clear…that Obamacare is a complete disaster.”
“While it’s encouraging that Congress is working on a healthcare solution, the governor is concerned this bill could hurt New Mexico and still needs some work,” he said. “She believes we need a bipartisan approach that focuses on the insurance market to make health care affordable.”
Senators are expected to vote on the Graham-Cassidy bill, which is supported by President Donald Trump, next week. Efforts at a bipartisan health care effort ended this week as the possibility of the new bill’s passage became more likely.
House Republicans passed a sweeping health care bill that could reshape the American healthcare system for the second time in less than a decade. If passed by the Senate, the bill would put hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans at risk of losing their health coverage. The legislation passed today, the American Health Care Act, is the culmination of years of criticism by Republicans of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare. The bill to replace the ACA passed on a 217-213 vote. Only one of New Mexico’s representatives, Republican Steve Pearce, voted for the legislation.
Pete Campos is a Democratic state senator who represents the state’s 8th Senate District. New Mexico’s health care crisis demands our attention. Now. No person should suffer even one day of serious illness or injury because that person cannot find or afford to pay for good health care, yet that is exactly what happens each day in New Mexico. Months-long waits for medical appointments, hours-long drives to Albuquerque or across the state’s borders once appointments are made and the worsening shortage of health professionals throughout New Mexico are becoming routine and, sadly, expected.
Earlier this month, there was a nationwide push to protest against Planned Parenthood. It was the second national call to action in the last two months. Since July, anti-abortion activists have been calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood after short, highly-edited portions of a series of videos insinuated that the organization sold and profited from fetuses. The CEO and President of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains was in Albuquerque on Friday and New Mexico Political Report sat down with her to talk about what her organization does and what would happen if they were defunded. Vicki Cowart, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, told New Mexico Political Report there has been some misunderstanding when talking about Planned Parenthood and funding.
SANTA FE, N.M. – A new report shows how many people in New Mexico benefit from Medicaid as the program’s 50th anniversary on July 30 draws near. Judy Solomon, vice president of health policy with the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says Medicaid provides health coverage for 576,100 low-income seniors, children and people with disabilities in the state. She says it’s especially helpful for New Mexico’s youngest residents. “Less than 10 percent of kids are uninsured, and that is because of Medicaid,” says Solomon. “There is no way you would have a percentage like that without the Medicaid program that’s covering almost 350,000 kids.”
An audit that included a healthcare plan in New Mexico found overbilling of a Medicare program. The healthcare plan in question is from Lovelace Health Plan. The audit showed that the overbilling occurred through Medicare Advantage Plans, which use a risk score to determine how much to bill. The Center for Public Integrity originally requested the audit findings under the Freedom of Information Act, but didn’t receive anything until the organization filed a lawsuit to see the records. Fred Schulte, the reporter who has been at the forefront of the battle to obtain the records, spoke with New Mexico Political Report over the phone about the audit and what he finally received.