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Bill ending funding pool for indigent care advances

SANTA FE, N.M. — The House Government, Elections & Indian Affairs Committee has passed without recommendation a bill that would end the funding mechanism created last year to help keep New Mexico’s smaller hospitals afloat.

SB117 now goes to the House Ways and Means Committee, which is scheduled to hear it on Thursday.

The bill would end the obligation for counties to contribute to the Safety Net Care Pool at the end of 2018. The fund helps 29 primarily rural hospitals cover the cost of indigent care.

A 2014 law requires counties to contribute the equivalent of a 1/12th percent gross-receipts tax, totaling around $24 million, into the fund. Bernalillo and Sandoval counties do not have to contribute because they already have a property tax to support indigent care at University of New Mexico hospitals in their areas.

New Mexico Association of Counties Executive Director Steve Kopelman has said enacting the sunset date would provide time to evaluate how the increase in the number of people who have obtained insurance through a Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Healthcare Act will affect the need to cover uncompensated care.

New Mexico Hospital Association President and CEO Jeff Dye said he believes the hospitals still need the funding mechanism and that ending it would be premature.