Medicare on minds of many in Portales

By Tony Parra

The push has already begun to try to stop New Mexico legislators from making more cuts to Medicaid funding in the 2005 legislation, which begins in January.
Some of the push is coming from Portales. Delores Penrod, a retired Community Services Center worker for almost 35 years, presented a resolution to Mayor Orlando Ortega and city councilors on Tuesday in support for urging Gov. Bill Richardson and New Mexico legislators to fully fund New Mexico’s Medicaid Program without further cuts.
“We need Medicaid in our county,” Penrod said. “Because of the poverty in Roosevelt County, there are people who are on Medicaid. A portion of the residents are not covered by any insurance. A decrease on Medicaid funding would mean even more would be without insurance.”
Ortega and the city councilors approved the resolution during the city meeting. There are more than 420,000 (almost one in four) New Mexicans enrolled in New Mexico’s Medicaid Program, according to the Galen Institute Web site. The number went up from 380,000 in 2002. The New Mexico Human Services Department needs $100 million to prevent further cuts to the Medicaid budget, according to the resolution.
Penrod said Richardson has already made cuts to the Medicaid program during the 2004 legislation which affected the reimbursement rates to health care providers. She said the reasons Richardson gave for the cuts was to balance the budget and he never wants to operate in the red.
“A good share of the budget goes to education,” Penrod said. “Health care is something that gets overlooked.”
Carol Morgan, nurse manager for the New Mexico State Government Public Health Division in Portales, said one of the reasons health care is overlooked is because people don’t worry about it until they need it. Morgan said her department received cuts in funding, also. Morgan said legislators need to realize how much money is coming in to New Mexico because of Medicaid.
“Federal funding comes into New Mexico, the poorest state, because of Medicaid,” Morgan said. “I would like to see the Medicaid program expand in the state of New Mexico.”
Morgan said 35 percent of the children in Roosevelt County qualify for Medicaid, but only 24 percent are enrolled in it. She would like for more parents to sign up their children for Medicaid.
Penrod said besides the children and elderly being effected, Roosevelt General Hospital, La Casa De Buena Salud, Portales pharmacies and private practitioners will be effected. James D’Agostino, RGH administrator, said 14.5 percent of the RGH patients are on Medicaid. He said there is no reason for Medicaid funding to be cut with the excess in money from oil and gas revenue for the 2005 legislation.