FARMINGTON — San Juan County officials said they will "aggressively fight" a state proposal to take county indigent funds to pay for the newly designed New Mexico Medicaid program.
Centennial Care is the state's Medicaid program beginning Jan. 1. The program has been restructured, with goals to better coordinate care and increase the number of New Mexicans who are insured through Medicaid from about 560,000 to 730,000, according to the New Mexico Human Services Department's website.
The expansion is part of the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare.
The human services department is proposing to re-direct a gross receipts tax that funds counties' "Indigent Health Care Programs" to pay for the cost of the Medicaid expansion.
San Juan County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter said that proposal will lead to closures at local agencies that receive funding from the county's indigent program, or the county would have to find another revenue source to keep the programs operating.
"It leaves a very big void to where the county would have to come up with millions of dollars," Carpenter said. Carpenter said he and other county officials have lobbied the state to change its funding proposal for Centennial Care and plan to continue with their push.
"To take county taxes, imposed by the County Commission for the benefit of county residents and redirect the funding to the rest of the state is just not a reasonable option," Commission Chairman Scott Eckstein said in a prepared statement.
San Juan County has imposed a one-eighth of 1 percent gross receipts tax to fund the indigent program since voters approved the tax in 1989.
The tax is expected to generate about $4.5 million this year. The money helps pay for care indigent people received at San Juan Regional Medical Center Emergency Medical Services; Childhaven; PMS/Farmington Community Health Center; San Juan Home Health; Northwest New Mexico Hospice; Family Crisis Center, Bloomfield Nursing and Rehab; San Juan Rehabilitation Hospital; San Juan County DWI and Meth Treatment Facilities' Four Winds Recovery Center; and PMS/Totah Behavioral Health Authority. San Juan Regional Medical Center also receives funds to care for indigent people.
A person who lives alone and makes about $30,000 or less or a family of four that makes about $45,000 per year qualify for the county's indigent program, according to the program's website.
In the 2012/2013 fiscal year, which ended in June, the county processed 8,715 claims as part of the indigent fund, said Liza Gomez, the county's indigent fund director.
San Juan Regional Medical Center received about $8.5 million for treating indigent people last fiscal year and the other agencies received $3.5 million in claims in the last fiscal year from the local tax and other sources, Gomez said.
Gomez said the employees in the indigent program are trying to spread the word to people who have received indigent funds to apply to Centennial Care for insurance coverage.
"If our indigent folks are eligible for (Medicaid) we want them to apply for that because it's an actual insurance plan," Gomez said.
Jolene Schneider, the director of Four Winds Recovery Center, said the Medicaid expansion won't help the clients at the rehabilitation center. She said her agency has never received Medicaid funds.
Four Winds in the last fiscal year admitted 3,550 people into its detox program, 224 people in its residential treatment program and 169 in its intensive outpatient program.
Schneider said about 25 percent of Four Winds' funding comes from the Indigent Program.
"It's really important to know that once the (gross receipts tax revenue) makes it to Santa Fe it's not likely to make it back here and that's going to leave a lot of folks without services," she said.
Gomez said she thinks there will be a future need for indigent fund programs even after the Medicaid expansion.
"We're going to continue with the indigent fund program because we think there are going to be gaps that are going to need to be filled," Gomez said.
Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.