healthcaregov

State insurance superintendent warns against ‘swift changes’ to Affordable Care Act

The State Superintendent of Insurance told the U.S. House Majority Leader that the Affordable Care Act is flawed, but still warned against drastic changes that would hurt New Mexicans. This came in a letter from Superintendent John Franchini sent to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., last week. “While we agree that there are significant opportunities for improving the ACA, we caution the new administration in making any swift changes that will destabilize the market or upend the gains made to coverage for New Mexico residents,” Franchini wrote. “Importantly, tax credits and cost-sharing reductions serve a vital function in diversifying the risk pool of individuals who purchase insurance.”

The call against “swift changes” comes during a debate between Republican members of Congress and President-elect Donald Trump’s team over how quickly to repeal the ACA and whether to do so in tandem with a replacement plan. #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; width:100%;}
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After being elected Speaker of the House, Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, takes the oath, administered by Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver.

Egolf elected Speaker of the House, as Dems take back control of chamber

Democrats officially took back control of the state House of Representatives Tuesday when Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, was elected Speaker of the House by acclamation, without the need for a vote from members. Republicans put forward, in a symbolic gesture, Don Tripp, R-Socorro, as their choice for the post. Tripp declined the nomination. Egolf thanked the former speaker for his service. Tripp then received a standing ovation from those in the chamber in both parties.

Gov. Susana Martinez during her State of the State Address in 2016. Photo Credit: Andy Lyman.

Martinez praises Trump’s selection for Secretary of Education

Gov. Susana Martinez likes Donald Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education. Martinez wrote an op-ed in Investor’s Business Daily in which she praised the president-elect’s selection of the Michigan billionaire to head the federal department that oversees education. “She has extensive experience and an unquestionable commitment to our children. For nearly three decades, she has been on the front lines in dozens of state capitals, working with parents to promote school choice and accountability in the classroom,” Martinez wrote. “As our secretary of education, she’s going to continue that fight.”

Martinez also wrote that DeVos could help move toward “local control and school choice.”

DeVos is a former chair of the Michigan Republican Party and led the American Federation for Children, an organization that advocates for school choice.

New York, NY USA - July 16, 2016: Donald Trump speaks during introduction Governor Mike Pence as running for vice president at Hilton hotel Midtown Manhattan

Bill would require tax returns from presidential candidates

A state senator wants to require presidential candidates to release five years of tax returns to qualify for New Mexico’s ballot. State Sen. Jacob Candelaria, D-Albuquerque, announced the legislation Wednesday, and it comes after President-elect Donald Trump refused to release his tax returns, breaking a decades-long tradition among major party presidential candidates. “This past presidential election proved that time honored traditions and political norms are no longer enough to ensure that presidential candidates meet the basic threshold of transparency they owe to the public by releasing their tax returns,” Candelaria said in a statement. “New Mexico voters deserve to know if any potential conflicts of interest or financial improprieties may exist. It’s unbelievable that President-elect Donald Trump failed to provide the public with the most basic financial information disclosed by every major party nominee in the last 40 years.”

Congressman Steve Pearce speaking at the Western Republican Leadership Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2011.Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore cc

Report: Pearce among those who sought to weaken independent ethics office

Rep. Steve Pearce was one of the Republican members of Congress who voted to gut the independent office looking into ethics, according to a news report. The vote came during a closed-door meeting by Republicans and became public Monday. After a major public outcry, Republican lawmakers changed course Tuesday and announced they scrapped plans to remove the functions from Office of Congressional Ethics. Politico reported that Pearce was one of those who supported removing many key functions of the independent OCE, including its ability to refer allegations to law enforcement. The now-dead proposal sought to send give more power to the House Ethics Committee, which is made up of members of Congress.

Money

2016 Top Stories #2: State budget situation worsens

The state budget situation was the backdrop of so many other stories this year and will remain a large story that NM Political Report and others will continue to cover in 2017 and beyond. Due in large part to the state’s reliance on oil and gas revenues to fund the government, New Mexico earlier this year found itself facing a large budget deficit amid plummeting oil prices. The state constitution does not allow the state to run a deficit; every year, the Legislature must pass a balanced budget. Previously: Top ten stories of 2016: 10-6; #5: NM Dems buck national trend, retake House; #4: Demesia Padilla resigns; #3: AG clears final behavioral health providers

During the 30-day regular session, the state House passed a version of the budget worth $6.32 billion, which actually included $30 million in new money. But by the time the Senate began discussing the budget, the situation worsened and the state braced for a whopping $359 million less in revenue than projected.

Attorney General Hector Balderas

2016 Top Stories #3: AG clears final behavioral health providers

Years after the state cut off Medicaid funding to 15 behavioral health providers, citing “credible allegations of fraud,” the Attorney General cleared all providers of the alleged fraud. AG Hector Balderas made finishing the investigation into the providers a key goal when he entered office in 2015. Previously: Top ten stories of 2016: 10-6; #5: NM Dems buck national trend, retake House; #4: Demesia Padilla resigns

In April, Balderas announced the investigation was complete, with no evidence of fraud in the final two companies. Balderas previously cleared ten providers in February, and had already cleared two others in 2015. The allegations of fraud came from a 2013 audit for the state Human Services Department by Boston-based Public Consulting Group.

Roundhouse

Top ten stories of 2016: 10-6

As we did in 2015, NM Political Report counted down the ten top stories that we covered this year. This time, our staff of four ranked over 20 stories that we felt were the most important of the year. Then, each member ranked what they felt were the top-ten stories and we averaged them out. Today, we will count down numbers 10 through 6. Tuesday, we will post numbers five and four, Wednesday numbers three and two and finally on Thursday, we will post our stop story of the year.

Health_pictogram

Another AZ behavioral health provider leaving the state

Another of the behavioral health providers brought in from Arizona to fill the gap made after the state Human Services Department cut off funding to 15 organizations is leaving the state. Valle del Sol is the fourth of five organizations from Arizona that were brought into the state in 2013 to take over behavioral health services to leave the state. The Santa Fe New Mexican reported that an executive with Valle del Sol said the company is working with HSD on the transition to aid patients. A spokesman for HSD said the same thing to the northern New Mexico paper. Valle del Sol had seven locations throughout the state.

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham with other panelists on a discussion about the environment.Photo Credit: Andy Lyman

Lujan Grisham to be part of Dem whip team

U.S. Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham will be a Senior Whip in the Democratic caucus when the new Congress convenes next year. Lujan Grisham received the position after being named by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer on Thursday. This is the second high-profile position for Lujan Grisham in the upcoming Congress. Lujan Grisham was recently elected chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, which is made up of Hispanic members of the chamber, currently only Democrats. Hoyer referenced that position Thursday in a statement.