Commission OKs resolution on Medicaid buy-in plan

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Bernalillo County commissioners on Tuesday gave their unanimous approval to a resolution asking state officials to develop a Medicaid buy-in plan.

The resolution, which does not have power of law but is considered a statement from commissioners, was passed by a 5 to 0 vote.

Sponsored by Commission Chair Steven Michael Quezada, county officials will send the resolution to the state Legislature and governor in support of a public option buy-in for health care coverage under the Medicaid program.

Quezada said a potential plan affords an opportunity for 50,000 underinsured Bernalillo County residents to obtain affordable healthcare.

“It’s not a free service, but it’s affordable healthcare,” Quezada said. “Here in New Mexico, we have generations of people not being covered. For me, it’s more important that people have coverage, that people actually use it, so we’re looking at preventive measures.”

During the 2018 New Mexico Legislative session, both the House and the Senate passed memorials to commission a year-long study of possibilities for expanding healthcare coverage by allowing more people to buy into Medicaid.

The resolution passed by commissioners states that “the plan is an innovative way to reduce healthcare costs and respond to federal actions that are driving up costs, causing people to lose coverage and creating uncertainty in insurance markets.”

But critics question the expense of such a system, the expansion of government involvement in healthcare and how it would be funded.

According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, possible disadvantages include the fact that Medicaid’s lower provider reimbursement rates could diminish provider participation and in some states it may not be politically feasible to broaden the scope of Medicaid, even if individuals are required to pay premiums for coverage.

According to the resolution, more than 180,000 New Mexicans do not have health insurance. And low-income patients who do buy plans on the health insurance exchange can expect to spend 8 to 30 percent of their income or more on total out of pocket health care costs, according to a cost estimator from New Mexico’s Superintendent of Insurance.

Commissioners heard from several speakers advocating for the buy-in concept. Most of those proponents represented NM Together for Healthcare, a coalition of public health groups which include Strong Families New Mexico, Partnership for Community Action, New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty and Health Action New Mexico.

No speakers opposing the resolution addressed the council during Tuesday’s meeting.

However, Quezada said he expected to hear from people stating opposition once state officials present their study.

“We’ll have another conversation once those numbers come in,” he said. “We want to be able to address their concerns. Sometimes people put things out there that are not true, and we want to make sure that the truth gets out there.”

County officials will send the resolution to Legislature, governor in support of a public option buy-in for health care coverage