YNMG & COVID: Get Covered

May 14, 2020

Access to medical care could not be more important than it is at this moment.  And plenty of people either don’t have health insurance or lost it because they lost their jobs during the pandemic. On Episode 62, we look into what options exist for the underemployed and recently unemployed, what a hospital worker experienced when she got a $1,500 COVID-19 test bill she was not expecting, and we talk to the superintendent of insurance to discover what the state is doing to help.

We hear from Stephanie Nelson and Eddie Nelson, who tell us what happened when Eddie was fired from his job in the hospital parking lot after taking COVID tests. They lost their health coverage three days later and just got hit with a $900 emergency room bill for their coronavirus tests.  

Marie Sparks, a nurse at UNMH, talks about her surprise $1,500 COVID-19 test bill. She was  ordered by her employer to take a test when she returned from out of state. She also had to use her paid time off and sick leave for quarantine. Spokesperson Mark Rudi wrote in an emailed statement that the hospital never intended for anyone to be charged for COVID testing, but pandemic response has been swift and fluid. Insurance companies will be charged, not employees, he wrote. Rudi did not answer specific questions about any remaining bills workers might be seeing from their tests and the time they’re spending trying to chase down the insurance companies to get them covered.

New Mexico Superintendent of Insurance Russell Toal explains how insurance companies and providers should be handling coronavirus testing and treatment bills, and how is office is handling glitches in billing during the pandemic.

Sireesha Manne, executive director for the Center on Law and Poverty, tells us how her center is helping ensure everyone has free access to health care and COVID-19 testing and treatment coverage. She said 70,000 New Mexicans have applied for unemployment insurance since the pandemic began, highlighting the challenges people are facing getting help not only for coronavirus treatment but for all health issues.

Barbara Webber, executive director of  Health Action New Mexico, talks about the accessibility to COVID-19 testing in New Mexico, how to apply for coverage, and how her organization is helping consumers with their health insurance issues. She said 1 in 10 New Mexicans did not have health coverage before the pandemic, and this gap highlights how the country’s lack of universal health care puts everyone at risk.  

And a news update: Two days before partial reopening in New Mexico, officials reported 143 more positive COVID-19 tests, pushing the total to 5,503, with many of those in the northwestern corner of the state, according to the Santa Fe Reporter. They also announced 11 more deaths. The death toll here stands at 242. Close to 1,600 people have recovered.

Though some of the shutdown orders are being lifted, people are still being asked to stay home. Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has ordered people to wear masks in public and said that order will be enforced by state police and first responders.

Here in Albuquerque, the UNM Hospital banned the helicopter for San Juan Regional Medical Center for 10 days for a policy violation, the Albuquerque Journal reports. Officials said the pilot didn’t give notice before lifting off from the UNMH helipad again after dropping off a patient. 

The pilot came from the northwestern part of the state that’s being hit hardest by coronavirus and is flying more and more patients to Albuquerque hospitals. Now, the Journal reports, their pilots must fly patients to Albuquerque’s airport, and then have them transferred by ambulance to UNMH.

We're keeping a complete list of the resources and volunteer opportunities that we find for each episode at bit.ly/YNMGhub. And here's what we got from today.

If you are in the need of health insurance here are some avenues for you:

  • Check out the insurance portal for the state at www.bewellnm.com or call 1-(833) 862-3935 
  • The New Mexico medicaid portal is nmmedicaid.portal.conduent.com
  • For more info on the Office of the Superintendent of Insurancepd.osi.state.nm.us. Their hotline is 1-833-415-0566
  • No-cost medicaid coverage is available for New Mexicans with low incomes at yes.state.nm.us or 1-(855) 637-6574.
  • You can sign up for coverage through the NM medicaid insurance pool at nmmip.org or 1 (844) 728-7896
  • You can find help at the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty nmpovertylaw.org
  • Health Action new mexico has a blog that can help walk you through your insurance questions. Head to: www.healthactionnm.org/blog

How are things going for you? We want to know. Share your quarantine stories by calling: (505) 218-7084 and leaving us a message. We could roll them into a future episode.

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Your New Mexico Government is a collaboration between KUNM, New Mexico PBS, and the Santa Fe Reporter. Funding for our coverage is provided, in part, by the Thornburg Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and the New Mexico Local News Fund.