Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal
SANTA FE – A proposal to broaden the authority of New Mexico’s health insurance exchange – partly to address the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, at the federal level – passed the state House 44-23 on Tuesday.
The legislation, House Bill 100, now heads to the Senate.
The proposal would give the insurance exchange greater power to dictate which health plans are sold through the exchange and how they are sold. The insurance exchange would work with the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance to help shape the benefits and cost-sharing of plans offered through the exchange.
Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena, a Mesilla Democrat and co-sponsor of the bill, said the measure also calls for increased reporting and public outreach.
The goal, she said, “is to make sure every New Mexican has access to affordable, high-quality health care.”
Republican lawmakers repeatedly questioned whether the proposal would open the door to a government-run, single-payer health insurance system. The bill, they said, would strip from the law a prohibition on the exchange buying “qualified health plans from insurance health issuers to offer for purchase through the exchange.”
“It looks to me like we are setting the stage here” for single-payer health care in New Mexico, said Rep. Larry Scott, R-Hobbs.
Lara Cadena said that isn’t the case. Deleting the language was aimed at clearing up confusion about some of the exchange’s powers, she said, but it still wouldn’t be able to set rates or establish a single-payer system.
The bill would, however, empower the exchange to establish standardized health plans that help limit out-of-pocket costs for New Mexicans, among other provisions, supporters said.
The proposal would also allow the exchange to work with local governments or other third parties to pay premiums or share costs with qualified individuals.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said one goal is to get more people signed up for health insurance by offering plans they can afford.
About 45,000 New Mexicans are enrolled in the insurance exchange. An additional 43,000 aren’t enrolled but could qualify for financial assistance to help them purchase coverage through the exchange, state officials said.
“Cost remains a barrier for far too many New Mexicans,” Lujan Grisham said in a news release.
The health insurance exchange, known as beWellnm, is a marketplace intended to help people buy affordable health insurance if they don’t qualify for Medicaid and don’t get health coverage through their employer.
House Bill 100 is jointly sponsored by Lara Cadena and Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque.