Around 25-thousand Native Americans in New Mexico will become eligible for Medicaid when the Affordable Care Act goes into effect next year. The change translates to more money for the Indian Health Service. But as KUNM’s Poverty and Public Health Reporter Tristan Ahtone explains: in Albuquerque, Medicaid expansion will also force Native health providers to deal with something they’ve never faced before: competition from non-tribal health programs.
A bill that would allow Medicaid eligible tribal citizens in New Mexico to opt-out of the states Medicaid plan, Centennial Care, has taken it’s first steps in the legislature. HB 376, which gives Native Americans the ability to opt-out of Centennial Care has passed out of committee.
Under the states proposed Medicaid program entitled Centennial Care, all Medicaid enrollees in the state would be required to enroll in one of four managed care organizations (MCO) to receive healthcare.
For New Mexico’s tribal population, this proposal is causing problems.
The New Mexico Human Services Department has announced the selection of four, new Centennial Care Managed Care Organizations responsible for providing healthcare to nearly 600,000 New Mexicans.
Medicaid is the public health insurance program for low-income people which currently serves about 560,000 New Mexicans, and will expand to include about 170,000 more come 2014. Centennial Care is the new name for New Mexico’s Medicaid program.
New Mexico has one of the largest Native American populations in the nation with over 200,000 registered tribal members and it’s estimated that nearly 40% lacks health insurance. New Mexico has announced it will build a state-run healthcare exchange under the Affordable Care Act. However, the state has yet to decide on whether to expand Medicaid, which could mean a lot of tribal members would suddenly have access to affordable healthcare.
Take Erik Lujan for example: At the age of 30, Lujan, a Taos Pueblo tribal member, began experiencing medical problems.