A piece of legislation moving through the New Mexico Legislature offers a window into how difficult it is to pay for and deliver healthcare during a state budget crisis, particularly at a moment when uncertainty in Washington clouds the future of healthcare in the U.S.
Sponsored by Republican Rep. Paul Bandy of Aztec and supported by GOP Gov. Susana Martinez, House Bill 316 seeks to reduce state spending on Medicaid by pushing hundreds of people off a little-known state program – the New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool, also called the “high risk pool” — and onto the state’s health insurance exchange. The high risk pool currently offers health coverage for the sickest of the sick, more than 2,700 people who suffer from heart disease, cancer, Hepatitis C, neurological disorders and HIV/AIDS. The bill is one of many proposals that would save money as New Mexico attempts to survive a state budget crisis. The legislation, in effect, is a one-two punch to health insurance companies, closing what Martinez considers a tax loophole by phasing out a tax credit for health insurers. It would trim Medicaid costs in a way that would end up increasing some health insurers’ costs, too.