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New Mexicans are well served by health care reform

For Levi Casas, sometimes just getting out of bed was exhausting.

Although he’s decades younger, there were some days when he felt like he was 80 years old. Born and raised in Las Cruces, Levi worked a steady job until he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

After chemotherapy ravaged his system, Levi was no longer able to work. Without a job, he lost his health insurance. Soon he went from fighting cancer to fighting for access and affordable treatments that could save his life.

Fortunately, Levi was able to get the care he needed through new health care options. Today, with his cancer treatments covered by Medicaid, Levi’s tumor has shrunk considerably and he is nearing the end of his chemo sessions.

Health care reform has given thousands of New Mexicans a new chance at a healthier life like Levi’s. More than 422,000 previously-uninsured people in New Mexico have new options for accessing high quality, affordable health care – either through Medicaid or the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange.

But the story doesn’t end there. Although the first round of open enrollment through NMHIX ended on March 31, thousands of New Mexicans are still eligible to sign up for low- or no-cost insurance options all year round.

If you are a family of four earning less than about $32,000, or an individual earning less than about $16,000, you could be eligible for no-cost insurance through our state’s expanded Medicaid program. You can enroll at any time and begin coverage immediately. In addition, Native Americans are also eligible to sign up for insurance at any point during the year, regardless of income.

Thanks to these new health care options, it is easier than ever to apply and enroll in Medicaid. Eligibility is now simply based on income.

This means that thousands more New Mexicans who previously did not qualify for Medicaid can get the care they need. This is also great news for those that were previously turned down when they applied – including childless adults who, for the first time in New Mexico, may qualify for Medicaid.

For many, financial assistance means that their health insurance costs are less per month than a cell phone bill. But the benefits – like doctors’ visits, prescription drugs, and screenings for diseases like cancer and diabetes – can be truly priceless.

Native Americans in New Mexico also stand to benefit from better access to health care plans – particularly important for our state, where they make up more than 10 percent of the population. Improving access and quality of care is something our tribal communities desperately need.

Native Americans in New Mexico experience large health disparities compared to the rest of the state and are more likely to be sicker and die younger. They also are face unique obstacles in access and affordability of care.

For those living on a reservation, health care facilities and services are limited and typically do not offer in-patient services, specialty or major emergency care. Those living off the reservation must find health care that meets regulations from Indian Health Services, whittling down their choices.

Now if you are Native American you can purchase private insurance through NMHIX at any time, and, if your household income is below $34,470 for an individual or $70,650 for a family of four, you won’t have to pay for out-of-pocket costs like deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance.

This makes providing care to one out of 10 New Mexicans even more affordable.

During open enrollment, more than 95,000 new people signed up for insurance through NMHIX or Medicaid. This is a great success, and it will continue to grow as more Native Americans and people eligible for Medicaid enroll in coverage.

That’s thousands more people like Levi that will have access to quality, affordable life-saving care.

New Mexicans who want to enroll can contact Medicaid at yes.state.nm.us, or by calling 855-637-6574. Native Americans who wish to enroll can contact the Native American Professional Parent Resources, at 855-241-8137.


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