Barry Massey of Associated Press has the scoop:
Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration is moving ahead to establish a state-run clearinghouse to help small businesses and tens of thousands of individuals find affordable health insurance they currently lack.
… “Overall, we never really wavered from the idea that it needs to be a state exchange,” Human Services Secretary Sidonie Squier said in an interview Tuesday.
Under a 2010 law championed by President Barack Obama to expand health care coverage, states can run an exchange, leave that task to the federal government or partner with federal health officials.
“We wanted to build something that we think is unique to New Mexico and works for New Mexico,” said Squier.
While some left-leaning states such as California quickly embraced the exchanges once the Affordable Care Act was signed into law, more conservative states have held back, with some state governors waiting to see how the election between Obama and Mitt Romney would turn out.
Conservatives worry that establishing the exchanges could end up costing individual states more money than expected or see states eventually cede control to the federal government in time.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant, a Republican, told reporters recently the federal government “has never funded a program it did not eventually control and expand. … This is one more step toward the largest entitlement-program expansion in American history.”
But this coming Friday (Nov. 16), states have a deadline to notify the US Department of Health and Human Services whether they’ll sign up. States may operate and administer their exchanges themselves or in partnership with the HHS.
Another deadline is coming on Dec. 14 in which states must provide details for how they plan to set up their exchanges.
And that could lead to a fight here in New Mexico.
According to today’s AP story, rather establishing a new state government agency for the exchange, Gov. Martinez wants it operated by the New Mexico Health Insurance Alliance, a nonprofit public corporation that provides access to insurance for small businesses and some individuals. The alliance is funded by an assessment on insurance companies.
But the state attorney general’s office is looking into whether that decision has to go through the state legislature.
“We do have some serious concerns,” Phil Sisneros, a spokesman for Attorney General Gary King, said to AP.
With roughly 20 percent of New Mexico’s population without health insurance, as many as 250,000 New Mexicans may become eligible to buy health insurance through the exchange between 2014 and 2020. Some $34 million in a federal grant has been received by the state to help set up the exchange.
Click here to read the entire AP story.