SANTA FE — The state House late Tuesday narrowly passed a bill that would remove hospitals from coverage under the state Medical Malpractice Act and expose them to greater damage awards in court.
It was approved 35-34 and now goes to the Senate for consideration.
The legislation, House Bill 75, is aimed at shoring up the finances of New Mexico’s patient compensation fund, which helps pay for monetary damages in malpractice claims.
Democratic Rep. Daymon Ely of Corrales said the fund should be focused on independent physicians who can’t get insurance elsewhere, not on large corporate hospitals that can obtain coverage on their own.
“The deficit in the fund has exploded,” Ely said, “and doctors are taking the hit.”
The measure triggered intense opposition from Republican legislators who said the bill would hurt, not help, the finances of the patient compensation fund.
“Taking hospitals out is a sure way of bankrupting this fund,” Rep. Greg Nibert, R-Roswell, said.
Nine Democrats crossed party lines and voted “no,” and one Democrat was absent.
All 24 Republicans and one independent voted against the bill.