Bloggers Note: Here's Health Action New Mexico's Reaction to Friday's veto of SB 38 &370, which I co-sponsored with Sen. George Munoz :
GOVERNOR MARTINEZ VETOES NEW MEXICO INSURANCE EXCHANGE ACT
Delay to Implement May Cost New Mexico Millions of Dollars in Federal Exchange Establishment Funds
Today Governor Martinez announced her veto of SB 38/370, the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange Act passed in the recent legislative session with bipartisan support.
State health insurance exchanges are a key component of the federal health reform legislation passed in 2010.
State exchanges are consumer-friendly, web based marketplaces that provide health insurance in a combined risk pool for small businesses, sole proprietors, and persons buying insurance in the individual market. Also included would be persons currently uninsured due to affordability or pre-existing conditions. Federal subsidies for insurance premiums will only be available to those purchasing health insurance on the exchange. The state exchanges will begin functioning in January, 2014. The federal government will set up the exchanges in states that do not have their exchange ready by January, 2013 including an IT system that can coordinate with Medicaid and other related services.
The vetoed SB 38/370 NM Insurance Exchange Act was a merged amended bill representing hours of compromise between various stakeholders weighing in on the best solutions to set up an exchange in New Mexico. The bill built upon the expertise in New Mexico of setting up two state high risk pools and the NM Health Alliance for more affordable health care for small business. It incorporated the recommendations of the SMJ1 Health Reform Task Force set up by the NM legislature in the 2010 session and the Executive Health Reform Task Force set up by the Governor in April of 2010. Stakeholder groups of insurers, providers, small business , consumers and advocates weighed in on those recommendations over 8 months for both task forces.
“As a consumer organization committed to health care coverage for all New Mexicans, we are very disappointed not to see this legislation signed, ” said Barbara Webber, Executive Director of Health Action New Mexico. “A state exchange is especially important for New Mexico which has the 2nd highest rate of uninsured persons in the country. One out of four New Mexicans is currently uninsured and most of them hold jobs. New Mexico is also a small business state for whom more affordable health coverage is very important” elaborates Webber.
State health exchanges will provide affordable health care to small businesses in New Mexico in three ways:
- First, already in 2110, the new law starting providing tax credits to small businesses of up to 35% for health coverage provided to employees. This tax credit for over 20,000 small businesses will increase once the state exchanges are started in 2014.
- Secondly, the exchange will put employees of small businesses as well as people who buy on the individual market in a combined risk pool so they will have the discount advantages of large group plans.
- Thirdly, it will provide subsidies to employees getting their insurance through the exchanges who are 400% below the poverty level.
This leveling of the playing field for small business means they can recruit and retain employees who otherwise sign on with large employers to have access to health insurance.
“We are glad that Governor Martinez supports an exchange framework as noted in her veto letter. However, we are concerned that by vetoing the exchange bill at the juncture, Establishment Federal funds will now be delayed for New Mexico at a cost of millions of dollars. Furthermore, the milestones to maximize benefits for setting up an exchange in New Mexico might not occur in a timely manner” said Webber. This would mean that the federal government would set up the exchange for New Mexico.
“We hope that Governor Martinez will work collaboratively with all stakeholders in the complex task of creating the state exchange. Health Action New Mexico and consumers look forward to being part of the process.”
Sen. Feldman's reaction: It may be time to work with our Congressional delegation to have the US Health and Human Service Agency in Washington set up an exchange for us. That's the position we're in now. Under the new law, failure to have an exchange standing up by 2013, will mean loss of federal planning dollars and a default to a federal exchange. Who knows maybe the costs would be lower and choices better using a federal pool. It's all up in the air, in light of the veto.
Let me know how you feel-- a state or federal health insurance exchange???