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Advocates for affordable healthcare urge support for lower premiums and co-pays

Mabel Gonzalez
Advocates for reducing the cost of healthcare in New Mexico urged legislators to approve a $92 million funding request by the Superintendent of Insurance

Supporters of a Healthcare Affordability Fund that was signed into law last year say the fund has helped small businesses lower premiums this year and should help more people next year.

But advocates are keeping up pressure to make sure all the funds are used to help uninsured and underinsured people.

Superintendent of Insurance Russell Toal told the Legislative Finance Committee on Wednesday that money from the fund had saved small businesses and their employees $12.5 million by November 1, and lowered the cost of personal insurance coverage. Beginning next year, he said premiums and co-pays would be reduced for a wider group of New Mexicans.

Afterward, the New Mexico Together for Healthcare advocacy group, which lobbied for the creation of the fund, held a press conference to say they supported the improved access to healthcare the fund has allowed so far, and were optimistic about next year's expansion.

However, Alex Williams from the New Mexico Center on Law and Poverty said that in this year's legislative session some of the fund was appropriated for purposes not directly related to healthcare access.

"Because there's so much more we can do to provide access to coverage for the native New Mexicans who are uninsured, we need every dollar in the fund to be spent on making health care more affordable," he said.

Organizer Juliana Hernandez with the group Forward Together Action said that the group's turnout at the hearing was a signal to legislators

"We're here, we're aware, and we're keeping our eyes on where the money is being spent, and holding people accountable," she said.

The Office of the Superintendent of Insurance is seeking $92 million for the Healthcare Affordability Fund's program in Fiscal Year 2024.

Alice Fordham joined the news team in 2022 after a career as an international correspondent, reporting for NPR from the Middle East and later Latin America and Europe. She also worked as a podcast producer for The Economist among other outlets, and tries to meld a love of sound and storytelling with solid reporting on the community. She grew up in the U.K. and has a small jar of Marmite in her kitchen for emergencies.
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