March 1, 2023

A bill to help expand rural healthcare services heads to Senate floor

The New Mexico State Capitol, or Roundhouse Wikicommons.

A bill that provides grant funding to expand healthcare services in rural communities passed the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday on an 8-to-1 vote.

SB 7, Rural Healthcare Delivery Fund, is sponsored by state Sen. Elizabeth “Liz” Stefanics, D-Los Cerrillos. Stefanics said bill is to enable rural healthcare providers the ability to expand new services as a way to try to improve health care deserts in rural communities. The New Mexico Department of Human Services would administer the program and provide grants to healthcare facilities that want to expand care but cannot due to the costs associated with doing so.

HSD Acting Secretary Kari Armijo said that while HSD would provide grants based on anticipated projected losses, the department would do a “back end reconciliation” to ensure that the department did not provide too large a grant.

Stefanics introduced a bill substitute that includes providers that accept Medicaid and also stripped the bill of its $350,000 appropriation.

State Sen. George Munoz, D-Gallup, said HB 2, the appropriation bill, has $40 million pledged by the House and the Senate “is looking at it, to add to it.”

“It’s a crisis throughout New Mexico,” he said.

Some state senators took issue with the word “new” in the bill. State Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, said  “we have key providers already established that are struggling.”

But Stefanics said “this is an executive bill,” and that “they’ve negotiated things, several things, all over the state.”

State Sen. Crystal Diamond, R-Elephant Butte, also said she was concerned about providers already established who are struggling to continue services rather than expand them.

“That’s not the intent of the executive,” Stefanics said.

The bill heads next to the Senate floor.