SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A measure to establish a state-operated health insurance exchange stumbled in the New Mexico House on Thursday after critics objected that the proposal would overly regulate medical coverage plans offered to consumers.
The bill initially failed in the House on a 39-30 vote — with eight Democrats opposing it. However, the measure was immediately revived and set aside, which will give majority Democrats a possible chance for another vote at a later date if they can round up more support or after making changes to meet some of the concerns of critics, including Republican Gov. Susana Martinez.
There’s also separate health exchange legislation in the Senate that could advance.
Rep. Mimi Stewart, an Albuquerque Democrat who sponsored the measure, said after the vote that work will continue on legislation.
“The Legislature has a responsibility to act. I am willing to work with anyone, including the governor, to ensure we pass a health care exchange that puts New Mexicans first. We can do this,” Stewart said in a statement.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (PPACA) calls for states to choose between setting up exchanges, or Web-based health insurance supermarkets, in their states or letting the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provide exchange services for their residents.
Under PPACA, the exchange must be ready to take applications Oct. 1, with the first plans sold taking effect Jan. 1, 2014. About 200,000 New Mexicans may be able to buy health insurance through the exchange by 2020, officials have estimated.
The governor already has taken steps to establish an exchange operated by the New Mexico Health Insurance Alliance, a nonprofit public corporation established in 1994. However, Democrats contend the Legislature must change state law for the organization to handle duties of the exchange mandated by a federal health care overhaul.
The Martinez administration initially maintained it could set up an exchange without legislation, but agreed to negotiate with lawmakers to avoid a possible court fight that could stall efforts to implement the exchange. Democratic Attorney General Gary King has said the law authorizing the alliance doesn’t conform to federal requirements for the exchange.