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Bill to study expanded access to affordable health care headed to governor's desk

Bill sponsors Senators Leo Jaramillo and Siah Correa Hemphill explained the proposal in the Senate
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Bill sponsors Senators Leo Jaramillo and Siah Correa Hemphill explained the proposal in the Senate

A bill that would study a program to expand access to affordable health care passed the Senate today. House Bill 400, known as Medicaid Forward, could allow New Mexicans of any income level to buy coverage with Medicaid.

Bill sponsor Senator Leo Jaramillo (D-Los Alamos) called the bill a historic opportunity to continue New Mexico's leadership in healthcare affordability.

"The plan would lift the Medicaid income cap and allow New Mexicans above the current cap to purchase affordable coverage," he said.

He added the bill directs the state's Human Services Department to study and design a plan to allow any New Mexican to access health coverage through Medicaid by paying premiums and co-pays based on income.

Senator Gregg Schmedes (R-Bernalillo) said that he was concerned covering more people would mean that providers would factor cost-benefit analysis into deciding what treatments to give patients.

"At the end of the day, you can't just ask the government to just keep covering everything, everything, everything, everything, right?" he said.

But the bill passed by 26 votes to 15.

Its passage comes just before the federal government ends the extended Medicaid coverage begun during the worst of the pandemic.

The Human Services Department is launching a campaign to alert nearly a million New Mexicans that they must apply to renew their benefits in order to continue receiving Medicaid coverage. The Department will be sending more information in letters in turquoise envelopes.

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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