Setting the record straight about Medicaid

Nov 15, 2010

Considerable misinformation is out in the public domain about the costs of Medicaid and its services in comparison to other states.

Op-Ed by NM Center on Law and Poverty on Sunday, November 14, 2010
State Raid on Medicaid Prompted $369M Shortfall

By Sireesha Manne
Attorney, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty

Governor-elect Susana Martinez will soon have to deal with the fiscal challenges facing New Mexico while honoring her promises to protect Medicaid from further cuts. It’s a wise commitment to a program that has been a saving grace for New Mexico, providing health care coverage to over half a million people. The program also brings $3 billion federal dollars into our economy that supports over 50,000 jobs, mostly in the health care sector.

Yet considerable misinformation is out in the public domain about the costs of Medicaid and its services in comparison to other states.

Because it would be unfortunate for policy makers to act on Medicaid funding based upon incorrect information, it’s critical to set the record straight about this program that has helped New Mexico’s job situation, health care system and economy so much.

• Medicaid is facing a $360 million shortfall primarily because the state borrowed a huge sum of money from the program that has not been returned. When New Mexico received federal stimulus funds for Medicaid in 2009, the state removed approximately $200 million in state general funds from the program and used it to bail out other parts of the budget in a time of economic crisis. The stimulus funds will expire by the end of this fiscal year, requiring the state to repay the money it borrowed from Medicaid, as the Legislature always intended to do.

• New Mexico’s Medicaid program is well-aligned with other states. Recent news articles have asserted that New Mexico provides more expansive Medicaid services than other states. However, the facts don’t support this. New Mexico’s benefits are no more generous than those offered in other states. All 50 states offer prescription drugs, 47 states offer hospice services, 43 offer eyeglasses, and the majority of other states offer hearing aids and dentures. Although these services are not mandated by the federal government, states have chosen to cover them because they are medically necessary.
Our coverage for children is also in the middle of the pack, with 25 other states having more generous income eligibility levels than New Mexico for children’s coverage through Medicaid. It is worth noting, though, that New Mexico still has the seventh-highest rate of uninsured children in the nation.

We do worse when it comes to Medicaid coverage for parents.

Read more: ABQJOURNAL OPINION/GUEST_COLUMNS: State Raid on Medicaid Prompted $369M Shortfall

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