By Bill Jordan
Feb. 7, 2023

I met a group of women at the Roundhouse this week who had recently lost close family members to COVID, including one who had lost a child. Their stories were powerful, and their emotions were raw. As a health care advocate, I felt helpless to address their loss. Nothing and no one at the Roundhouse could bring back their loved ones. Our brief encounter was a vivid reminder that we still have many health care challenges ahead of us. We must do better.

New Mexico Voices for Children was founded by pediatricians who recognized that many of the problems they encountered in their offices and hospitals were systemic – caused by poverty, homelessness, malnutrition, discrimination, violence, abuse, neglect, and a lack of access to affordable health care. NM Voices continues to be strong advocates for child health and safety.

Health equity was and is of prime importance to us. As Medicaid provides coverage for almost half of all New Mexicans, our Medicaid program must be robust and responsive.

Our kids can’t be healthy if Medicaid is not healthy. With Medicaid providing health care coverage to about three out of four New Mexico children, it is essential that we fully fund Medicaid. As the federal public health emergency ends in a couple months, some of those covered under Medicaid will have to transition to the Exchange or other coverage options. Medicaid and the Exchange are of critical importance and must be maximized. That transition must be seamless, or our numbers of uninsured will rise. Let’s also make sure that we maximize use of the health care affordability fund to maintain and expand coverage!

Among the other health and safety issues that we support is strong action by the Legislature to curb gun violence. We’re supporting legislation to prevent child access to guns (HB 9), to prohibit those under age 21 from purchasing a firearm (SB 116), and to ban assault weapons (SB 171).

We also support bills to increase the tobacco tax (HB 123 and HB 124) and a ban on flavored tobacco products/vaping (HB 94), because they would help reduce the number of young people using and becoming addicted to these harmful products.

To ensure better health equity, let’s boost funding for our county and tribal health councils (HB 49), provide free menstrual products in our school restrooms (HB 134), and establish a new prescription drug affordability board (HB 51). And as we recover from last summer’s wildfires, let’s plan ahead and pass the Public Health & Climate Resiliency Act (HB 42 and SB 5) so that we’re better able to meet the public health challenges of climate change.

After one of the most devastating public health crises in decades, New Mexico has an opportunity to emerge stronger and healthier. But we must make health equity a priority.

Bill Jordan, MA, is Senior Policy Advisor and Government Relations Officer for New Mexico Voices for Children.