Hed: Guv signs bills aimed to improve healthcare

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed several healthcare bills which officials said would help insulate rural hospitals from financial vulnerability during a press conference at Sierra Vista Hospital in Truth or Consequences on Friday. The four bills Lujan Grisham signed are intended to improve New Mexico’s healthcare delivery system, particularly for the state’s small rural hospitals, […]

Hed: Guv signs bills aimed to improve healthcare

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed several healthcare bills which officials said would help insulate rural hospitals from financial vulnerability during a press conference at Sierra Vista Hospital in Truth or Consequences on Friday.

The four bills Lujan Grisham signed are intended to improve New Mexico’s healthcare delivery system, particularly for the state’s small rural hospitals, many of which are in crisis. State Sen. Liz Stefanics, D-Los Cerrillos, said almost one-third of the state’s rural hospitals are ready to close. 

SB 17, the Healthcare Delivery and Access Act, sponsored by House Rep. Doreen Gallegos, D-Las Cruces, establishes a program under Medicaid that will leverage hospital assessments, which will generate a 75 percent federal Medicaid match.

The program is expected to leverage $1.3 billion in federal funds for hospitals in the state, Lujan Grisham said.

Frank Corcoran, chief executive officer of Sierra Vista Hospital, told NM Political Report that Sierra Vista will spend around $900,000 in hospital assessment costs but in Fiscal Year 2026, the hospital will receive around $7 million in federal Medicaid dollars.

He said Sierra Vista Hospital will be able to expand its services to include behavioral health, pulmonology and surgery options with the additional funding.

Gallegos called it a “lifeline” to rural hospitals.

But, since that funding won’t reach hospitals until FY26, the legislature also passed SB 161, the Acute Care Facilities Subsidies Act, sponsored by state Sen. George Muñoz, D-Gallup.

SB 161 will provide a financial bridge in the short-term for rural hospitals aiming to prevent closures or reductions in services. Corcoran said the funding from SB 161 will provide a $2.7 million bridge for Sierra Vista Hospital and that the hospital will receive that funding by June. 

Overall, the bill provides $50 million in funding to rural hospitals to offset losses incurred by indigent and sick patients who can’t pay their hospital bills, Corcoran said.

Lujan Grisham said many in the legislature were focused on a “long-term fix” but she credited Muñoz for creating what she called a “vehicle to get money out the door, a bridge” which complements SB 161.

“We have a solution for hospitals on the brink,” she said of the bill.

Another bill, HB 7, sponsored by House Majority Whip Reena Szczepanski, D-Santa Fe, is the Healthcare Affordability Fund. The bill takes a tax placed on insurance companies and directs it to the fund which will be used to pay down premiums and out-of-pocket insurance costs for low-to-moderate-income individuals through the state’s health insurance exchange program, beWellnm.

Lujan Grisham said this bill will improve healthcare for individuals in the state who are not eligible for Medicaid but are priced out of the private market for insurance.

“That’s the worst possible setting for rural states like New Mexico. This fund is for small businesses and individuals,” Lujan Grisham said.

Maria Retana, an activist from Las Cruces, said this bill will help those who might get sick and wait before seeking healthcare because they can’t afford it.

SB 14, the Health Care Authority Act, sponsored by Stefanics creates the department and moves parts of the Department of Health and Office of the Superintendent of Insurance into the Healthcare Authority. 

Lujan Grisham said the bill will “bring the power of purchasing” health care for the state’s 180,000 employees. Lujan Grisham said this will save state taxpayers money. 

“I’m very excited about this bill. It was a heavy lift in both the House and the Senate,” Lujan Grisham said.

Stefanics said the state will save money on purchasing prescription drugs. 

Lujan Grisham signed several other bills on Friday, one of which was HB 151, Post-Secondary Affirmative Consent Policies, sponsored by House Rep. Liz Thomson D-Albuquerque. HB 151 mandates that all publicly funded institutions of higher education will set policies and procedures for affirmative consent. The bill requires training for students. Supporters of the bill hope it will help to reduce sexual violence on New Mexico college campuses. 

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