Lawsuit: State, managed care organizations not providing care to ‘most vulnerable’ children

Disability Rights New Mexico and three families filed a suit against the state and three managed care organizations for allegedly not providing necessary care to medically fragile children. The managed care organizations are New Mexico Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Presbyterian Health Plan and Western Sky Community Care. 

Medicaid is required to provide at-home care to severely disabled children whose ability to live at home is dependent upon trained nursing, the complaint states. Jesse Clifton, a lawyer with Disability Rights New Mexico, said the state has about 400 medically-fragile children, some of whom are not receiving any at-home nursing despite qualifying for it. He said he anticipates more families will join the lawsuit. The state is providing federal funds for that coverage, Clifton and Holly Mell, also a lawyer for Disability Rights New Mexico, told NM Political Report.

Can anti-abortion state laws affect New Mexicans?

Two states are considering laws – one that supports abortion rights and one that doesn’t – that attempt to reach out of their states’ jurisdictions. One bill, California’s AB 1666, protects Californians from Texas SB 8 and other copycat state laws prohibiting “aiding or abetting” an abortion in states where abortion is banned or restricted, such as Texas. The legislation seeks to explicitly protect Californians from Texas’ legal scheme, which enables anyone to sue those who help a Texas individual to obtain an abortion after six weeks of gestation. If passed, one possible way the bill could be applied would be if an entity or individual sued a California individual who made a donation to a Texas fundraising organization that helped a Texas abortion patient go out of state for their reproductive healthcare. Ellie Rushforth, an attorney with American Civil Liberties Union of New Mexico, said that so far, the Texas SB 8 law has not been “weaponized” in that way.

Report shows low voter confidence for national election results, but more confidence in state and county elections

A new report from the University of New Mexico’s Department of Political Science indicates that voter confidence is higher in state and county elections while voters are more polarized in national elections. This and other findings were discussed during a virtual press conference on 2020 voting information. New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver also said during the press conference that if the new voting rights bill is passed, the NMSOS office would expect to see an increase in civic engagement. Toulouse Oliver held the virtual press conference on Wednesday to discuss the results of the report, called 2020 New Mexico Election Administration, Voter Security, and Election Reform Report. During the discussion, she said that if SB 8, sponsored by state Sen. Peter Wirth, D-Santa Fe, passes, NMSOS would “see an increase in participation.” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham proposed expanding voting rights this year.

NMSU/UNM classes resume, COVID protocols announced

LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Administrators at New Mexico State University know they’re headed into a fall semester this week facing a spike in COVID-19 cases, but they still hope to make campus life as normal as possible. NMSU Vice Chancellor and Chief COVID-19 Officer Ruth Johnston said they’ve tightened protocols, meaning students and system employees at all five campuses will need to provide proof of vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test on a weekly basis, beginning September 30. “And the reason for that was not because we wanted to delay things or make our community less safe,” said Johnston. “In fact, we wanted to give people the opportunity to be able to get the vaccine if they hadn’t already.” The University of New Mexico and Central New Mexico Community College have both issued similar policies, based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

UNM to use The Pit as COVID-19 vaccination site

The University of New Mexico has not hosted a basketball home game at the iconic University Arena, known as The Pit, since early in 2020. But the arena will soon have crowds again for a very different reason, as University of New Mexico Health announced it would use the property as a site for mass-COVID-19 vaccinations as the state moves to expand vaccinations. The plan is currently to start vaccinations at the site on Jan. 19. UNM Hospitals Chief Executive Officer Kate Becker said UNM Health said “vaccination is the key to getting past this pandemic.” 

She estimated the facility would be able to administer 1,680 doses of the Pfizer vaccine per day, then ramp up to double that number, nearly 3,400, when those who are vaccinated need their second shot of the vaccine.

New SCOTUS conservative bloc could overturn ACA, with big impacts on NM

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act during the 2020-2021 judicial term, the result for New Mexicans could be catastrophic, according to various officials and experts. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear California v. Texas on November 10. If Judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Monday, as is expected, this will be among the first cases she will hear as a Supreme Court justice. If she is confirmed, she will create a new 6-3 conservative bloc on the court bench which could lead to a ruling that the entire ACA is unconstitutional. If this happens, 20 million Americans could lose health insurance coverage, according to a report by the Urban Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

ICE reverses policy on international students

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement walked back its plan to prohibit distance learning for international students Tuesday. The plan which targeted students on nonimmigrant F-1 or M-1 visas from being able to take all of their course work online this coming fall threw a few thousand students in New Mexico into uncertainty. The University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University have 1,100 and 1,000 international students respectively. New Mexico Tech has 134 and Western New Mexico University in Silver City has about 50 international students while Highlands University in Las Vegas has about 60. Highlands University President Sam Minner told NM Political Report on Tuesday the ICE policy issued last week is “shameful.”

Minner said where possible, the university was advising international students to take a thesis class in the fall to satisfy the ICE requirement that at least one class be in-person.

New Mexico one of 18 states to sue Pres. Trump over international student policy

New Mexico is one of 18 states suing the Trump administration over the new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement rule that targets international students. The lawsuit calls the new regulation an “insuperable burden” on American colleges and universities as they now have to certify every international student’s respective class schedule to demonstrate that the students are not taking all of their course work online, by August 4. ICE issued the new regulation last week, which some affected New Mexico institutions of higher learning called “vague.” New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology has 134 international students. The University of New Mexico has 1,100 and New Mexico State University has about a 1,000. The regulation states that students on nonimmigrant F-1 or M-1 visas cannot legally remain in the country if all of their course work is online.

NM universities respond to new ICE rule targeting international students

New U.S Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) regulations on international students is creating uncertainty on New Mexico university campuses. ICE issued a news release Monday that restricts students who are on F-1 and M-1 nonimmigrant visas. Students on F-1 visas pursue academic coursework while students on M-1 visas take vocational training. ICE’s new regulation prohibits students on F-1 and M-1 visas from remaining in the U.S. legally if they take online course work only. During the start of the pandemic, when many colleges, including New Mexico State University, shifted to online only classes, ICE made an exception for international students because it was the middle of the semester, said Seth Miner, director of admissions, orientation and international student and scholar services for NMSU.

Higher education cuts could jeopardize research funding, freeze hiring

Proposed cuts to higher education spending in New Mexico could jeopardize some research funding for state universities and lead to a hiring freeze at Santa Fe Community College, advocates say. Universities and colleges in New Mexico are denouncing proposed cuts to higher education spending as lawmakers trim budgets across state government to fill a $2.4 billion budget hole wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and a devastated oil and gas market. A draft House bill seeking to blend recommendations from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and an influential budget committee would slash roughly 6 percent from research and public service projects at universities and 4 percent for broader university and public college funding from the state. That would represent the steepest reductions for any state-funded department or agency eyeing potential cuts as lawmakers address the budget shortfall. The Legislature is still debating the proposed cuts.