The New Mexico Legislature last year approved a bill aimed at eliminating out-of-pocket costs for behavioral health. When Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the measure into law, she said in a press release that the bill could “make a real, meaningful difference” by eliminating copays for behavioral health services.
Now, a class action lawsuit filed last week is challenging New Mexico medical insurance providers for not covering medical cannabis expenses. New Mexico cannabis producer Ultra Health, along with six medical cannabis patients, filed the suit against seven New Mexico medical insurance providers and are seeking unspecified damages, reimbursement for their respective cannabis purchases going back to January of this year and for medical cannabis to be covered by medical insurance providers going forward. The case seems to be the first of its kind in the nation.
The cannabis company and medical cannabis patients are being represented by Christopher Saucedo, who is also a New Mexico State University regent and served last year on the state’s redistricting committee. Ultra Health has established a reputation for filing numerous suits against state departments on various cannabis issues like increasing medical cannabis production limits and overturning medical cannabis rules and regulations.
With the exception of 16-to-25-year olds, a study found that some women pay more than men for car insurance in New Mexico, according to a consumer advocacy group. According to the data, provided by Consumer Federation of America, the difference in annual average pay rates between a single woman and a single man are small as long as all other factors are equal. But, if a woman has a poor credit history, the rate differences between what that woman pays compared to what a man with good credit history pays can be considerable, according to the data. One example is a 35-year-old single female driver with a perfect driving record but poor credit who lives in zip code 87121, which encompasses an area of Albuquerque’s Westside and west of Albuquerque. This hypothetical female pays, on average, $621.20 more annually for car insurance than a male with better credit credit.
Insurance companies owe the state nearly $65 million in taxes. That’s according to an audit of premium taxes paid by insurance companies to New Mexico over more than a decade. The audit looked at 30 health, life and property insurers’ tax payments from from 2003 to 2016. Of those, 17 companies underpaid the taxes, with one insurer underpaying by nearly $30 million. Most of the underpaid money came because companies misapplied or claimed tax credits for which they did not actually qualify.
An analysis of the health care bill currently floundering in Congress finds it would decrease the amount of New Mexicans with insurance and raise how much they pay for insurance. The Office of the Superintendent of Insurance predicts sweeping, largely negative, changes for New Mexicans if the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) is replaced by the American Health Care Act (AHCA). In other words, the Donald Trump-backed health care bill that the House is working on voting for (though it looks increasingly unlikely a vote will occur anytime soon) would have a negative impact on the current situation in New Mexico. Update: The House pulled the bill from consideration Friday before a vote. This post continues as originally written below.
An audit of the embattled Office of the Superintendent of Insurance could not offer an opinion on the fiscal health of the department because of a lack of information. On Wednesday, the New Mexico Office of the State Auditor released the most recent OSI audit. “The annual audit highlights areas throughout the agency where safeguards of public funds are not adequate or existing rules aren’t being enforced,” State Auditor Tim Keller said in a statement. “These are critical areas that concern the collection and administration of hundreds of millions of our tax dollars each year. They need to be addressed for the financial health of our state.
Both Gov. Susana Martinez and the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance say they did not send a letter to Republicans in Congress and others about the Affordable Care Act. Congressional Republicans have been talking about repealing ACA, also known as Obamacare, in the coming year under President-elect Donald Trump. They’re debating whether to pass a repeal along with an immediate replacement or to repeal then pass a replacement plan later. PoliticoPro, a subscription service, first reported that Martinez and Superintendent of Insurance John Franchini sent a letter urging Congressional Republicans not to repeal the law without a replacement set up. A later report, again from PoliticoPro, said Martinez’s office denied sending the letter.
Three state agencies expressed a lack of confidence Thursday in the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance’s (OSI) ability to collect millions of dollars back taxes owed to the state from health insurance companies. State Auditor Tim Keller, Department of Finance and Administration State Budget Division Director A.J. Forte and Legislative Finance Committee Deputy Director Charles Sallee all expressed doubts in OSI’s plans to collect an estimated $193 million that it failed to collect from premium health insurance taxes from 2010 through 2015. The comments came at an interim Legislative Finance Committee hearing. “I think it’s very notable there are three oversight agencies looking at this,” Forte told state lawmakers. “There are too many inconsistencies for me to feel comfortable in this process.”
The controversy began when Keller’s office revealed the uncollected revenue in a special audit earlier this year.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico will not be offering individual plans on the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange in 2016 after the Superintendent of Insurance rejected a large requested pay hike. Albuquerque Business First reported the news and it comes just weeks after the company requested approval for a premium rate increase. The insurance company had requested a 51.6 percent premium rate hike, but the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance rejected the proposal earlier this month. The move will impact 35,000 individuals who bought insurance from the company both directly and through the exchange. Those who have BCBSNM insurance plans from other plans will not be impacted.