New Mexico Civil Rights Act Stalled on Governor’s Desk
The New Mexico Civil Rights Act passed the New Mexico Senate on March 16, 2021. It has now been on Governor Lujan Grisham’s desk for 8 days yet to be signed. The question is why would there be any hesitation on the part of a DEMOCRATIC governor in a very blue state to sign a bill passed by a DEMOCRATICALLY controlled state legislature? There is no good reason. The arguments put forth by the opposition are non-sensical. The opposition expresses feigned fear of economic calamity while the real economic calamity is here and now due to the lack of civil rights protections in New Mexico. The real and very large costs to the state arise due to the abuses of the some governmental actors.
Collins & Collins, P.C. is particularly concerned with the medical care inside New Mexico prisons and jails. The medical abuses inside prison walls are not only shocking but incredibly expensive for New Mexico taxpayers. The costs is not associated with the go to boogeyman, trial lawyers, but the costs associated with the permanent and severe harm done to inmates while imprisoned. These harms are permanent and require a lifetime of taxpayer funded medical care, disability, and more often than not reincarceration. This is in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars doled out to prison medical contractors.
Hundreds of millions of dollars are wasted on these abuses alone without even going into the many other abuses that occur inside New Mexico prisons and jails. Cana this state really afford to maintain the status quo? Should money better allocated to schools, rural health care, roads and other critical needs go unmet because of the unbridled abuses of New Mexico prisons and jails? I personally think the money could go to better use. As such, I have sent numerous letters to legislators and most recently the Governor. Every taxpayer should do the same.
My letter to the Governor:
I am an attorney that has sued NMCD and its medical providers many times over the last 4 years. The fears expressed by NMCD and counties regarding the financial toll that HB 4 would have are fabricated. The true cost to New Mexico taxpayers is not the settlements and verdicts against NMCD. The true costs are exponentially higher.
For instance, our clients have all been sent to hospitals for weeks or months on end for easily avoidable hospitalizations. NMCD’s medical providers pay $0.00 for any hospitalization of 24 hours or greater. They are financially incentivized to delay treatment until hospitalization is necessary. MEDICAID then picks up the entire bill for hospitalizations that could have been entirely prevented through basic medical care for which the medical contractors are paid hundreds of millions of dollars.
That is not the end of the true costs. Our clients, and probably hundreds more inmates who are not our clients, suffer serious and permanent injuries or death. Cynically, the best case for state taxpayers is death. In the case of severe lifelong injuries, the former inmates upon release will require a lifetime of medical care at the taxpayers’ expense through MEDICAID and/or MEDICARE. In addition, the former inmates will be unable to work in manual labor due in our cases to permanent spinal damages, amputations, organ failure and more. This means that the taxpayers must then pay again for the maintenance of these former inmates and their families. Finally, and perhaps of least concern to the public although it should be of greatest concern, is the fact that the situations above lead to reincarceration where the cycle is repeated.
NMCD is complicit in the gross, reckless and deliberately cruel denial of medical care to inmates. Without the enactment of the New Mexico Civil Rights Bill, HB 4, nothing will change and NM taxpayers will continue to pay the hundreds of millions of dollars due the medical contractor and the hundreds of millions more that result from the failure to provide basic medical care to NMCD inmates.
The private companies that provide healthcare to NMCD, one of which is part of a hundred-billion-dollar conglomerate, will change least of all. They are economically incentivized to continue what they are doing. They have been granted New Mexico Tort Claims Act protection by the Courts which protect them from liability and punitive damages. The liability cap under the Tort Claims Act is $700,000.00. This is a combined cap for both NMCD and its medical providers. It takes little accounting knowledge or ingenuity to perform the cost benefit analyses that the private medical providers must be doing when making decisions to deny and/or delay healthcare to NMCD inmates.
It is incredibly disappointing that the legislature cannot at a minimum have these costs calculated experts to show the true costs to NM taxpayers of NMCD’s abuses It would be even more disappointing if a DEMOCRATIC GOVERNOR were to buy into the feigned fears of Republican legislators and counties without considering the true costs of the absence of civil rights remedies in New Mexico.