February 3, 2023

Bill to eliminate copays for STI treatment clears Senate committee

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

A bill to eliminate co-pays and cost sharing for sexually transmitted infection testing, treatment and prevention cleared the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee by a 5-2 vote on Friday.

SB 132, STI Prevention and Treatment, will, if enacted, help to stem the increased rates of sexually transmitted disease, Senate Pro Tem Mimi Stewart said. Stewart, a Democrat from Albuquerque, sponsored the bill and said the rates of STI  have increased both in New Mexico and nationally since 2020. Kayla Herring, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Rocky Mountains, said “treatment is prevention because it is passed through sexual contact.”

“It increases the likelihood a patient will seek STI testing so they won’t have the fear that if they are positive, they will then have to make a large payment for medication. We need to reduce the rates of STI’s in New Mexico and we believe this will do it,” Herring, who acted as an expert witness, said.

Stewart said the bill would help with babies born with congenital syphilis. Many STI’s, including syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia, are asymptomatic and often the person carrying the infection is unaware.

Stewart said the bill, if enacted, won’t go into effect until January 2024 to give insurance companies time to implement the regulation.

State Sen. Antoinette Sedillo Lopez, D-Albuquerque, asked if the bill would help with a problem members of the Legislature saw a few years ago of minors needing to get parents involved in healthcare decisions.

“Will this help that problem? If there’s no co-pay, parents shouldn’t get involved,” she said.

Herring said that with no cost sharing requirement, there would be no reason for an explanation of benefits from the insurance company “which is the concern we were talking about a few years ago.”

The two Republicans who voted against the bill were state Sen. Gregg Schmedes of Tijeras, and state Sen. David Gallegos of Eunice. Schmedes said the bill would drive a wedge between children and parents and that it “facilitates more control for healthcare insurance companies.”

“They grab up premiums,” he said.

Gallegos expressed a similar concern regarding minors not having to receive consent from a parent or legal guardian to seek testing and treatment.

But, Stewart said this bill does not impact the age of consent for medical procedures.

“The vast majority of minors get medical treatment with their parents, guardians or aunties but we have allowed minors to seek treatment without consent of parents for 70 years,” Stewart said.

State Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino, a Democrat from Albuquerque, asked if school-based health clinics could offer STI testing.

Herring said she wasn’t sure how school-based health clinics base their care.

Stewart introduced a substitute bill that included some cleaned up language as recommended by the New Mexico Office of the Superintendent.

The bill heads next to the Senate Tax, Business and Transportation Committee.