July 06, 2017

Udall Visits De Baca Family Practice Clinic to Highlight how Republican Health Care Bill would Harm Rural NM

Slashing Medicaid would devastate rural hospitals and clinics, cut funding for school-based medical care

FORT SUMNER, N.M. -- Today, U.S. Senator Tom Udall visited the De Baca Family Practice Clinic to highlight the essential care that rural clinics provide to New Mexicans, and to expose the harm that the Republican health care bill, now being debated in Congress, could do to the economy and health of New Mexico's rural communities.

Udall has been leading the fight against the GOP bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The Republican bill, also known as TrumpCare, would be devastating for New Mexico families, particularly rural communities. At the De Baca clinic, Udall met with clinic CEO Lisa Walraven and administrators, toured construction at the clinic (photo) and talked with doctors and other health professionals about how important it is to save Medicaid and the essential health care that New Mexicans rely on thanks to the ACA. Rural Community Health Centers received $145 million through the ACA, and if it is repealed, they could close, Walraven and others told Udall.

New Mexico would be particularly affected by the proposal in the Republican bill to end the Medicaid expansion made possible by the ACA. Slashing Medicaid funding would mean as many as 265,000 New Mexicans would lose health insurance. And cuts to Medicaid would be hardest on rural communities, where a larger percentage of people benefit from Medicaid. For example, 50 percent of the patients seen at the De Baca Family Practice Clinic are covered by Medicaid.

Rural hospitals, clinics and schools also rely on Medicaid to provide health care services. Such deep cuts to Medicaid would make it difficult for many rural health care providers to keep their doors open. Not only would that force patients in De Baca and other communities to drive hours to get to a doctor and back, it would devastate the economy, Udall said. Overall, it is estimated that New Mexico would lose 49,513 jobs by 2022 under the Republican bill.

"Clinics like De Baca Family Practice, and rural county hospitals, like those in Socorro and Guadalupe, keep New Mexicans healthy. But they don’t just provide necessary care, they are a critical source of jobs in our rural communities. TrumpCare means no care in rural New Mexico communities, and that's why I’m fighting tooth and nail against the Republican bill," Udall said. "I visited De Baca today to shine a light on the need to prevent the deep cuts to Medicaid and other services and support in the Republican bill. We need to keep rural New Mexicans insured and to keep our rural hospitals and clinics open. And I'm fighting as hard as I can to make sure New Mexicans see no reduction in services and access to care in rural areas."

Walraven said: "As a rural community health center, we are committed to serving everyone, and the ACA has helped our clinic significantly expand the number of people we serve and increase our scope of services. We are concerned that drastic cuts to Medicaid will have a significant impact on our clinic, and if our clinic were forced to close, our community would be forced to travel at least 50 miles to find access to primary care services. We appreciate that Senator Udall understands the potential impact that deep cuts to Medicaid would have on New Mexico, and we are very fortunate to have his support of Community Health Centers."

It's not just the De Baca clinic. Other New Mexico clinic and hospital administrators have told Udall that the ACA has helped them keep their doors open. For example, Christina Campos, administrator of the Guadalupe County Hospital said: "The Affordable Care Act, including Medicaid expansion and the insurance exchange, have provided adequate health care coverage and ensured access to one of the most vulnerable populations in our state, the rural population, which tends to be older, sicker and poorer. Guadalupe County Hospital alone saw uninsured patient rates drop from 14 percent down to under 4 percent since 2013. This expansion in coverage has helped stabilize our finances, and has helped us keep our doors open, when in fact, across the nation, many rural hospitals are facing closure, especially in states that did not expand Medicaid."

Cuts to Medicaid would also hurt school children, who receive important health screenings and other care thanks to Medicaid funds for necessary medical services and children with disabilities. Schools are reimbursed for vision, hearing, and mental health screenings. These services help children get services early – so they can be ready to learn. And in many cases, children would not get this care if it were not provided at school.

Right now, New Mexico schools are reimbursed $18 million a year from Medicaid, but under TrumpCare, states would not have to consider schools Medicaid eligible providers and the costs for care would be on the public schools.

"New Mexico public schools can't afford to take on these kinds of costs," Udall said. "That could mean hundreds of school children each year will go without vision, hearing and mental health treatment because no one else will be able to provide it. To rob our kids of that kind of basic care is criminal. I won't stand by and let it happen."

Udall has heard from over 10,000 New Mexicans afraid they will lose essential health care and urging him to fight the TrumpCare bill. Among them are a number of rural school superintendents and administrators from across the state, including Ann Lynn McIlroy, superintendent of the Loving Municipal Schools, and Linda L. Hale, superintendent of the Hatch Valley Public Schools.

“Over 86 percent of our students depend on Medicaid funding for their health care," Hale said. "The need for health care is so high in our school community that we recently placed a School Based Health Center in our high school to provide more immediate access to health care. If we were to lose Medicaid funding, our already inadequate state operational funding (which is intended for academic services) would need to supplement the nursing department. This would cause deficiencies in many more areas.”

“A school’s primary responsibility is to provide students with a high-quality education, but children cannot learn to their fullest potential with unmet health needs," McIlroy wrote to Udall. "Restructuring Medicaid to a per capita cap system will undermine New Mexico’s ability to provide America’s neediest children access to vital healthcare necessary to ensure they are able to succeed in school and beyond…. [S]chool-based Medicaid programs serve as a lifeline to children who can’t access critical healthcare and services outside of their school.”