Universal health care proposal gains traction in state

Hannah Grover
Farmington Daily Times

FARMINGTON — A proposal to bring universal health care to New Mexico is gaining support in the state Legislature and from entities statewide.

Committees in the state House and Senate have recommended passing legislation that would pave the path to eventually implementing a state health plan.

"This is a big change in our whole health care system to achieve this," Rep. Deborah Armstrong, D-Albuquerque, told the House Health and Human Service committee on Feb. 8. The meeting can be viewed on nmlegis.gov.

Armstrong, who chairs the committee, is sponsoring a bill that would outline the vision for a universal health care plan and lead to a study of the proposal.

While the bill outlines the vision for the plan, it would not implement a universal health care plan. Instead, the 2021 Legislature would have to approve implementation after reviewing the study.

Brett Moore, a lobbyist with America's Health Insurance Plans, expressed opposition to the bill during the committee meeting.

"This bill is a huge concept," he said. "It is a quantum shift, I would say, in terms of the way that health care is provided and that should be studied very carefully."

He argued that the bill essentially would pass the plan and study it as it goes on.

Plan calls for health care cooperative that doesn't raise taxes

Proponents say universal health care does not mean raising taxes.

Donna Dowell, the media director for the campaign promoting the bill, explained that currently Medicare contracts with private health plans.

Dowell said 60 percent of the money spent on healthcare in the state comes from federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid while the other 40 percent comes from employee and employer premiums. Instead of contracting with private insurance, those federal dollars and private premiums would go into the New Mexico Health Security Plan’s funding pool.

The New Mexico Health Security Plan would be administered by an independent commission. The campaign describes it as being run like a cooperative.

Proposal introduced to address rising health care costs

The proposal is intended to address rising healthcare costs and lack of insurance coverage.

According to numbers provided by the Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign, 13 percent of adults in New Mexico younger than 65 are currently uninsured.

“We’ve got to do something about access and costs,” Dowell said.

Hannah Grover covers government for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 or via email at hgrover@daily-times.com.