NU Online News Service, Jan. 24, 3:45 p.m. – The New Mexico Senate Consumer and Public Affairs Committee is considering a bill that would prohibit health maintenance organizations from discriminating against practitioners of acupuncture and other forms of “oriental medicine.”

The bill, S.B. 371, was introduced by Sen. Michael Sanchez, D-Belen, N.M., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

State lawmakers around the country have responded to complaints about the effects of health coverage mandates on health coverage premiums by introducing and passing fewer mandate bills in the past year than in previous year.

But, if enacted as originally written, S.B. 371 would forbid HMOs from discriminating against doctors of oriental medicine “relative to other providers regarding reimbursement levels and services provided within their scope of practice,” according to the bill text.

New Mexico law already prohibits HMOs from excluding doctors of oriental medicine from provider panels, and an amendment passed Feb. 10 by the Judiciary Committee would eliminate the effects of the bill on reimbursement levels. The Judiciary Committee version of the bill would prohibit HMOs from discrimination regarding services but would give HMOs freedom over reimbursement levels.

If the original version of the bill becomes law, “opponents from the insurance industry believe that the requirements of S.B. 371 will cause [HMO] premiums to rise, since acupuncturist fees will increase,” according to a bill analysis published by the Senate Legislative Finance Committee.

The text of the bill is available on the Web at http://legis.state.nm.us/session03.asp?chamber=S&type=++&number=371&Submit=Search