Immigrant Access to Healthcare

Although immigrant families provide essential and critical contributions to our economy, labor force, and tax base, immigrants face unfair barriers to accessing healthcare and programs that help with basic needs. In partnership with community and immigrants’ rights groups, the Center fights to improve access to healthcare and other benefits programs for immigrants and their families. Recent wins include a 2021 law that prohibits discrimination against immigrants in local healthcare programs. We also continually advocate to keep healthcare accessible at public hospitals that receive public funds to serve people who lack insurance.

Medicaid: free or low-cost medical coverage

Affordable Coverage

Good quality healthcare should be affordable and easy to access, but our healthcare system today is costly and fragmented and leaves out too many of us. We believe everyone has the right to healthcare and that our families can build power to make our voices heard.

We are part of a community-led coalition, NM Together for Healthcare, working to bring down healthcare costs and expand coverage in New Mexico. Learn more about the coalition’s efforts at

Protecting & Removing Barriers to Medicaid

With our expertise in Medicaid law, administration, and regulations, NMCLP regularly identifies and resolves barriers to accessing Medicaid. We focus especially on increasing enrollment in Medicaid and access to necessary medical services for communities that experience disproportionate barriers, including Native American, immigrant, and rural communities.

Medicaid is a cornerstone of our healthcare system, serving more than 800,000 New Mexicans, and it was temporarily expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Center advocates to ensure that our state legislature adequately funds the Medicaid program and extends coverage to the most New Mexican families possible. We also monitor and respond to federal threats to cut Medicaid funding or eligibility and that would undermine access to healthcare for low-income New Mexicans.

Stopping Medical Debt from Hospital Bills

People should be able to access healthcare when they need it, without fear of facing devastating medical debt. Almost a quarter of New Mexico’s population has medical debt in collections, and hospitals in the state sue thousands of patients for unpaid medical bills–garnishing their wages, placing liens on their homes, and ruining their credit. 

Thirty-seven percent of adults who reported medical debt or a problem with medical bills used up all of their savings to pay these bills. Patients with medical bill problems are nearly three times more likely to postpone needed care. 

With our partners in the NM Together for Healthcare coalition, NMCLP successfully advocated for legislation in 2021 that prohibits hospitals and providers from suing low-income patients or sending them to collections over a medical bill. The law also requires hospitals, urgent cares, and clinics to check if patients qualify for public insurance (like Medicaid) or programs that can cover healthcare costs. We work with the agencies in charge of implementing this law to make sure the law adequately protects patients. We also work with low-income patients to make sure they are protected from being or sent to collections over a medical bill. 

Increasing Access to Hospitals and Indigent Care Programs

New Mexico’s hospitals are required by law to offer financial assistance to low-income patients, and most counties provide indigent care programs to help pay for hospital services and healthcare in other settings. This system of hospital and county programs has been especially important for people who either cannot afford health insurance or who are not required to get insurance under the law, such as many immigrants and Native Americans.

In Bernalillo County, the University of New Mexico Hospital is specifically entrusted with the responsibility of caring for low-income patients through its lease agreement and public funding streams. UNMH also has a special contractual obligation to ensure Native Americans are not charged for services and receive priority access. NMCLP has been working with key community partners for many years to push UNMH to provide adequate financial assistance programs to low-income residents. In 2014, we helped lead a campaign with local partners to encourage Bernalillo County to renegotiate UNMH’s lease, ensuring the Hospital provides a safety net that meets county residents’ needs.

The Center works to improve financial assistance policies at other New Mexico hospitals, including at Presbyterian Healthcare Services, the largest nonprofit hospital in the state. We evaluate the policies at these hospitals and advocate for improvements. NMCLP has also provided technical and legal expertise to encourage county governments across New Mexico to develop strong indigent care programs, and we support legislative efforts to maintain funding for these programs.

These efforts led to the passage of a non-discrimination law in 2021, prohibiting all state- or locally-funded healthcare programs from discriminating on the basis of immigration status. For example, county-funded financial assistance programs, like UNMH’s program, cannot withhold assistance because of immigration status.