New Mexico may open Medicaid to paying customers
New Mexico would open its Medicaid program to new paying customers in an effort to expand affordable health care options under proposed legislation unveiled on Wednesday.
The measure from Democratic Rep. Deborah Armstrong of Albuquerque aims to create a Medicaid buy-in option for state residents who make too much to qualify for Medicaid coverage or marketplace subsidies under the Affordable Care Act but still may struggle to afford adequate care. Medicare recipients would not be eligible.
The concept was embraced by Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham on the campaign trail last year, and her budget recommendation for the coming fiscal year includes some initial funding.
Residents would pay a monthly premium to the state in return for medical insurance under Medicaid, which currently serves low-income families and individuals, according to the new proposal.
The measure calls on the state Human Services Department to create the program by 2021, building on the agency's experience contracting with managed care organizations to provide Medicaid services.
The number of uninsured residents in New Mexico has been cut in half since former Gov. Susana Martinez expanded the state's Medicaid program. As enrollment has stabilized, about 9 percent of the state population remains uninsured.
"My goal is to get everyone possible in New Mexico covered so that we can get access to health care," Armstrong said. "This is one way to try and get at some folks that are going to miss out everywhere else, and try and get them something that may be affordable."
In many states across the country, Democratic politicians are pressing to make good on campaign pledges to expand access to health care and push back against steps taken by the Trump administration and congressional Republicans to undermine the Affordable Care Act.
The Trump administration is pushing forward with short-term, limited-duration insurance and association health plans as an alternative to comprehensive but more costly policies under the Affordable Care Act.
A separate bill in New Mexico from Democratic Rep. Micaela Lara Cadena would set minimum standards for those cheaper but skimpier plans, including provisions for coverage of pre-existing conditions.
The introduction of the Medicaid buy-in bill was applauded by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan on Wednesday in a news release.
The legislation also seeks $12 million for investments to help sustain the Medicaid buy-in program.
By: Morgan Lee
Source: Associated Press
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