Indigenous Women Rising expands services to help empower Native people

Indigenous Women Rising, a grassroots group known for its abortion fund for Indigenous people, is expanding its services. IWR has long provided support to Native individuals who are birthing through a midwifery program alongside its abortion fund. But the organization’s new Emergence Fund will enable the group to expand its reach to Native birthing families across the country, Justin Lorenzo  (Laguna Pueblo), midwifery fund director, said. 

That will make IWR’s birthing program operate more in tandem with its abortion fund, which has offered support to Native individuals seeking abortion across the U.S. for some time. 

Lorenzo said the Emergence Fund will cover midwifery care and doula care and will also help with other needed resources, such as diapers, breastfeeding and other birthing supplies. Department of Health spokesman David Morgan told NM Political Report via email that Medicaid pays for midwifery care and is “working on implementing a doula coverage benefit.”

“But, that is not in place, yet,” Morgan said. But, Lorenzo said that while the state’s Medicaid program covers midwifery, not all clinics in the state accept Medicaid.

DD Waiver program under investigation following reports of neglect, deaths

On Friday, the New Mexico Department of Health released an update about its unannounced health and safety wellness checks for clients receiving services from the states’ Developmental Disabilities (DD) Waiver programs. 

As of Thursday, the DOH reported it had completed 2,558 in-person unannounced wellness visits statewide for the 6,815 clients receiving DD waiver services. “These visits identified 45 incidents of alleged abuse and neglect that can range from an environmental hazard in the home, missing staff or other issues discovered by state agencies during the wellness checks. Every one of these incidents is being fully investigated,” a DOH news release states. “The number of incidents requiring investigation speaks volumes about the absolute necessity and importance of these unannounced visits,” DOH Secretary Patrick M. Allen said in the news release. “We launched these mass visits with an all-hands-on deck mentality, and these numbers demonstrate a need for a comprehensive re-evaluation of the Developmental Disabilities Supports Division and the Division of Health Improvement oversight.

Lujan Grisham intervenes in Medicaid procurement process

By Daniel J. Chacón and Robert Nott, The Santa Fe New Mexican

Just as the state Human Services Department was getting ready to announce which insurers had been selected to receive contracts worth billions of dollars to administer its Medicaid program, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham stepped in with a last-minute surprise. She ordered a do-over — a move that has sparked questions and criticism from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle amid shifting explanations from the governor’s administration. “It just smells wrong,” said Sen. Jerry Ortiz y Pino, an Albuquerque Democrat who chairs the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee. “The timing of this decision is certainly suspect given the fact that the respondents to the RFP (request for proposals) had already been scored,” Senate Minority Leader Greg Baca of Belen said in a statement. “I fully support the bipartisan calls for the governor to explain this unexpected action.”

Report outlines hospital pricing issues for uninsured

A new report found that some New Mexico hospitals charge uninsured patients more than insurance companies and government health plans for the same services. Prepared by the New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty, the Hospital Pricing for Uninsured Patients in New Mexico follows one produced earlier this year. This updated report includes newer data. The New Mexico Center for Law and Poverty provided the report to the Interim Legislative Health and Human Services Committee this week. The study examined hospital prices for 17 services across 43 New Mexico hospitals.

How a new governor could impact reproductive policy

If Republican nominee Mark Ronchetti wins election, he can still impact reproductive rights policy, even without being able to pass his priorities through the Legislature with Democratic majorities. Ronchetti has campaigned on an anti-abortion policy. During the Republican primary, his campaign website said he believed “life should be protected – at all stages.” In a commercial in September he said, that if elected, he would support a voter referendum on banning abortion after 15 weeks. But in July, Albuquerque megachurch pastor Steve Smothermon said Ronchetti told him privately that, if elected, Ronchetti still intended to ban abortion. Ronchetti’s campaign denied it. 

Related: Pastor says Ronchetti would seek to ban abortion

Smothermon reiterated the claim to his congregation in October, saying that “he told me exactly what I said.”

Ronchetti’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

U.S. House passes bill to protect contraception access

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill on Thursday by a 228 to 195 vote that would codify the right to contraception into law, but its future in the U.S. Senate is uncertain. All Democrats in the House voted in support of the bill. Most Republicans opposed it, but eight voted in favor. HR 8373, would codify into law the right to contraception and the right of healthcare providers to provide it and information about it. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last month, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a concurring dissenting opinion stating that all rights based on the 14th Amendment’s right to privacy, including the right to contraception, should be revisited by the court.

White House approves New Mexico expansion of Medicaid postpartum care

Vice President Kamala Harris announced on Thursday the expansion of postpartum Medicaid coverage for New Mexico and a few other states. The federal government made changes to Medicaid rules last year, which allowed states to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage from two months to 12. New Mexico began working last year to make the rule change and implemented the expansion by April 1. The expansion means that about 5,000 women in New Mexico will be able to access 12 months of postpartum care through Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program. Harris said during her remarks that the federal government was formally approving the expansion for New Mexico as well as for the District of Columbia, Maine and Minnesota.

A new healthcare poll finds that a majority of New Mexicans have put off medical visits due to cost

A new poll found that one in two New Mexicans didn’t seek medical care in the past two years due to the cost. Nearly a quarter of New Mexicans said they’d experienced discomfort or pain because they could not afford the cost. Of the respondents, 36 percent said they skipped dental care due to cost. Another 29 percent delayed visiting a doctor or procedure and 26 percent avoided visiting a doctor or procedure altogether because of the expense. Alex Williams, healthcare policy advocate for New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty, told NM Political Report that currently, there are 200,000 individuals in New Mexico who lack access to healthcare.

State expands postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months

The New Mexico Human Services Department will expand postpartum Medicaid availability to 12 months of coverage starting Friday. The agency began efforts this past winter to expand postpartum Medicaid coverage to 12 months with a target date of April 1. The state is able to expand the coverage from two months to 12 months due to recent changes in federal law that allows the state to change how it asks for Medicaid dollars. The expansion will continue for five years. After that, the federal government will decide to continue to allow the expansion.

Congressional bill would increase prepartum and postpartum Medicaid coverage 

A bill before the U.S. House of Representatives would increase the rates of federal government reimbursement for Medicaid coverage for women during both prepartum and postpartum care. U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury, a Democrat representing New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District, is a cosponsor on the bill and introduced the legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives last week. Stansbury told NM Political Report that the Advancing Maternal Health Equity Under Medicaid Act is important legislation for New Mexico because 72 percent of births in the state are covered by Medicaid. She said that if the bill passes both chambers of Congress and is signed into law by President Joe Biden, Medicaid coverage in New Mexico would expand to include 90 percent of maternal health both before and after a birth. “I think one of the things that it’s important to understand in general about health care accessibility in New Mexico is so many folks in New Mexico struggle economically.