August 14, 2017
Dear Juntos Supporters,
Thank you for your support and advocacy for the work we’ve all done to try to expand the healthcare safety net and access to care for low-income county residents at UNM Hospital!
We launched the Juntos campaign in December 2013 to urge the Bernalillo County Commission to open negotiations with the UNM Regents for how the $96 million/year mill levy should be used to ensure healthcare access and to initiate a meaningful public planning process in decision-making about the county health safety net.
Juntos campaign timing was particularly important as county commissioners had a window of opportunity to re-open the hospital lease agreement and negotiate a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to assure accountability for taxpayer dollars used for healthcare expenditures. The critical deadline was the 2016 general election.
The Juntos Para la Salud/Together for Health Campaign strived to convince our county commissioners and inform the community about the unique dynamics at play, and achieved our goals to some extent. For example, in early 2014, Juntos advocated for the County Commission to form a Health Care Task Force on health system planning and the renegotiation of the UNM Hospital lease. The Task Force was formed in May 2014 and, in October 2014, they presented commissioners with specific recommendations that aligned with our campaign goals:
- Assure healthcare coverage for all Bernalillo County residents
- Meet Native American healthcare obligations
- Increase availability of behavioral health services
- Build an integrated system of primary care and Navigation support, provide continuity of care for incarcerated people, and
- Increase county oversight and accountability of mill levy funds.
In June 2015, as commissioners were entering into negotiations with UNM around the mill levy agreement, Juntos organized and presented our county commissioners with over 1,000 petitions, signed by you and so many in our community that believe all county residents should have an equal chance to be healthy, and urging them to follow the task force recommendations in the negotiations. The successes of the Juntos campaign were made possible because of you.
Unfortunately, the ultimate goals of the Juntos campaign have not been achieved. In August 2016, county commissioners acted to place the mill levy on the general election ballot without first securing a negotiated agreement for how the $96 million/year would be spent by UNM Hospital. In November 2016, after an aggressive PR campaign by UNM Hospital, Bernalillo county voters approved the mill levy for an additional 8-year term. As we write this letter in August 2017, a final agreement between the Bernalillo County Commission and the UNM Regents has still not been signed. We have heard that a draft MOU will be released for 30-day public comment at some point in the next few weeks. We will post that information once it becomes available.
It is clear that the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid expansion has cut UNM Hospital’s uncompensated care costs by nearly half. It is also clear that very low-income, uninsured people living in our community will continue to struggle to access the health care they need. Worse yet, policies at UNM Hospital appear to be regressing to the type of policies that activists fought so hard to change in 2005. You may have seen the Albuquerque Journal article or the KOB news piece on a return to a 50% up-front payment for uninsured patients, the poorest of the poor, before they can receive non-emergency surgical services.
Juntos Para la Salud/Together for Health Campaign will no longer continue as an organized group on this campaign. It is critical that all of us stay involved and informed to advocate for UNM Hospital to change their discriminatory financial assistance policies and increase access to care for all Bernalillo County residents. To that end, EleValle: South Valley Healthy Communities Collaborative, is continuing to advocate for health care justice at UNM Hospital. EleValle is a collaborative among Casa de Salud, Centro Savila and ACCESS that has supported the campaign since 2013. If you would like to continue receiving updates, information and calls to action from EleValle, please sign up.
We are grateful for your support and continued concern for the health and well-being of all individuals and families in our community.
Together for health,
Juntos Para la Salud/Together for Health Campaign Core Team Members
Julie, Kim, Leah, Lidia, Michelle, Nikihanna, and Terry