February 07, 2018 10:20 PM
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - New Mexico will study opportunities to provide Medicaid coverage through a fee to people who earn too much to qualify for the health care program for the poor, under an initiative approved by the state Legislature on Wednesday.
The Democrat-led state Senate voted 33-8 on Wednesday to commission a year-long study of possibilities for expanding health care coverage by allowing more people to buy into Medicaid.
The House approved the measure. Decisions about whether to proceed with a buy-in program would be left until next year, after Republican Gov. Susana Martinez leaves office.
The buy-in concept involves redirecting federal subsidies for coverage in the marketplaces created under former President Barack Obama's health care law to a new category of Medicaid.
"In New Mexico, Medicaid is the market mover in health care. We might as well maximize it to our benefit," said Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque. "My only concern is that we may have a federal administration that may not be so keen on partnering with us, but you never know."
The concept has the backing of a coalition of local public health advocacy groups, and the study by state insurance regulators and legislative staff aims to explore potential cost savings for consumers.
New Mexico's health exchange has four marketplace providers that cover every county in the state. It was unclear how Medicaid managed care organizations or the state would be able to negotiate lower provider rates to doctors.
"If it looks positive, then we bring it back to the Legislature and lay it out," said Sen. Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque, a sponsor of the measure. He said any Medicaid buy-in program would likely be distinct from coverage for current enrollees.
About one in 10 residents of New Mexico live without health insurance. The state's 2014 expansion of Medicaid coverage cut the number of uninsured residents in half.
Republican Sen. William Sharer described the Medicaid buy-in idea as a step toward more burdensome regulation and government mandates.
"I think if we're going to do this study we also ought to study how to get back out of this rush to make health care a right," he said.