February 15, 2019

Committees buy in to Medicaid Buy-In plan

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Andy Lyman

The House chambers on the first day of the 2019 Legislative Session.

Dual efforts to enact a Medicaid Buy-In program in New Mexico passed their first challenges this week in the Legislature.

Thursday night, the Senate Public Affairs Committee passed its version of the legislation, sponsored by Albuquerque Democratic Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino. And hours later on Friday morning, the House Health and Human Services committee approved a bill to allow some New Mexicans to pay premiums for a health care plan that taps into the existing framework of Medicaid.

The two bills mirror each other.

Supporters say with a Medicaid Buy-In system, the state will save money on administrative efforts, since Medicaid is an already-built system, while expanding insurance coverage.

“It’s really important to get as many people covered as possible,” Rep. Deborah Armstrong, the Albuquerque Democrat who sponsored the legislation, told the committee late last week.

She said the Medicaid Buy-In plan could also be later folded into a Health Security Act if that bill were to become law.

Who would qualify for the program and how much cooperation would be needed from the federal government are two key questions for supporters of the bill.

Colin Baillio, the Director of Policy and Communications at Health Action New Mexico, said the plans would be available to those who are not eligible for Medicaid, Medicare or tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. HSD would be tasked with setting up financial assistance for those eligible for the Medicaid Buy-In plan who have incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty level. If funding is available to those at higher levels, financial assistance could also be provided.

While the plan is a priority for some Democrats, Republican state Rep. Gregg Schmedes sounded supportive of some of the efforts.

“I kind of see this New Mexico picking up where the federal government has failed,” Schmedes said.

He still expressed concerns about how it would impact the access to care and possible rising costs.

Correction:  This story said that Abuko Estrada said the targeted health plan created by the state Human Services Department would be for those who make less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level. The plan would be available to those who are not otherwise eligible for Medicaid, Medicare or tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. HSD would be tasked with setting up financial assistance for those eligible for the Medicaid Buy-In plan who have incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty level. If funding is available to those at higher levels, financial assistance could also be provided.