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New Mexico House Increases Medicaid Funding 4.4%

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s House on Wednesday gave bipartisan support to a proposal that would set the state’s budget at $5.6 billion.

All 70 Democrats and Republicans voted for the budget measure. The measure now heads to the Senate.

The measure calls for a $215 million, or 4%, increase in spending out of the state’s main budget account in the fiscal year that starts July 1. The budget does not include all available sources of revenue. That means lawmakers could cut taxes or provide more money for programs before the House reaches a final agreement with the Senate.

The budget allocates about $50 million for higher government payments into public employee pensions next year; the change would decrease worker contributions and give public employees their first increase in take-home pay since 2008, when the deteriorating economy left the state  struggling with budget shortfalls.

The budget increases spending on public schools 3.8%, to $2.4 billion, and spending on higher education 5.5%, to $756 million.

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Spending on Medicaid, the health insurance program for poor New Mexico residents and for residents who qualify for help with paying for nursing home care, will increase 4.4%, to $905 million.

The health program allocation includes $8 million to raise reimbursement rates for nursing homes, to help the homes cope with federal cutbacks on reimbursement rates for skilled nursing care.

Nursing home industry representatives have warned that the federal cuts could force some facilities to close.

About one-quarter of all New Mexico residents get their health coverage from Medicaid.

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