Legislation aimed at renaming the New Mexico Human Services Department and adding divisions from other state departments in an effort to unify health care purchasing, regulation and policy is now headed to the governor’s desk.
The state House on Thursday approved Senate Bill 16, which will effectively rename human services to the Health Care Authority Department and includes the addition of other divisions from the state Department of Health and General Services Department. The bill, expected to be signed by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham who endorsed the legislation in February, was first approved by the Senate on March 6 before receiving final approval from the House this week.
According to the legislation, which is sponsored by Democrats Sen. Elizabeth Stefanics of Cerrillos and Rep. Elizabeth Thomson of Albuquerque, the Health Improvement Division and Developmental Disabilities Division from DOH, as well as the State Health Benefits Division from GSD, would fall under the purview of the Health Care Authority Department. Moreover, the Groups Benefits Committee and the Health Policy Commission would also be included under the newly formed department.
The passing of Senate Bill 16 follows remarks from the governor’s State of the State address in January in which she called for the creation of a new health care agency to move New Mexico closer to “universal health care.”
“Consolidating purchasing, oversight and health care policy in one department creates an exceptional opportunity to leverage the state’s purchasing power and other policy tools to make high quality health care affordable and more accessible to all,” the governor previously said.
A spokeswoman for the governor was unable to be reached Friday for comment on when the bill might be signed. But recommended organizational changes and statutory changes would need to be reported to two legislative committees by November and a final report would be due to the Legislature by January 2024.