The Legislative Finance Committee announced it will award $389,000 to study the financial impact of a proposed state-level “Medicare for All” plan.
The committee’s procurement team said Monday that the money will go to Rockville, Md.-based KNG Health Consulting LLC, London-based IHS Markit and Albuquerque-based Lee Reynis, a longtime contractor with the University of New Mexico Bureau of Business and Economic Research, to study the fiscal impact of a single, co-op-style health plan for New Mexico residents.
Finance committee staff will meet Wednesday in Albuquerque to offer the public a chance to comment on the fiscal impact study plans.
Nationally, Medicare for All has become a call to battle for progressive Democrats, including presidential hopefuls Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.
And the issue may be particularly poignant in New Mexico, where high poverty levels have led roughly 40 percent of state residents to enroll in Medicaid compared to 23 percent nationwide. Combined with Medicare recipients, more than half of the state’s residents receive health insurance through the government.
The New Mexico Health Security Act would create a statewide health co-op that drops private insurers to a “supplementary” role, according to a group that supports the measure.
The legislation is sponsored by a number of state lawmakers, including Reps. Debbie Armstrong, D-Albuquerque; Bobby Gonzales, D-Ranchos de Taos; Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque; and Sen. Gerry Ortiz y Pino, D-Albuquerque.
Supporters say it would ensure affordable health care for every New Mexico resident by streamlining claims under a single health co-op.
Ortiz y Pino argues that would slash health insurance costs by at least 25 percent to 30 percent, “streamlining” administration and erasing the need for insurance advertising and profit.
More than 160 organizations in New Mexico supported the Health Security Act in January’s legislative session, including the city of Albuquerque.
“It really is a health care for all,” Ortiz y Pino said. “If there would be no profit involved, there’d be no reason for them to jack up the prices. And the study now would be an effort in determining: Is this fiscally feasible?”
Critics say it isn’t feasible, that it would result in worse medical care and would ratchet up health care costs for employers and the state.
According to a trade association representing private health insurers, America’s Health Insurance Plans, 4,769 insurance company employees in New Mexico earn a combined $241 million.
Another 3,501 New Mexico “insurance-related employees” make $161.5 million, according to a 2019 fact sheet from the lobbying group.
“My biggest concern about that act is that one size does not fit all,” said Danine Baca, treasurer and former president of the New Mexico Association of Health Underwriters. “While it may work for many of our constituents, it’s not going to work for everybody. I’ve had people over the years who for various reasons needed to go out of state for care.
“I just don’t see also having the government, the state, running things — how that’s going to really simplify things,” she added.
Lynda Turner, executive director of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisers in New Mexico, said the plan is “disguised in our eyes as single-payer” health care, which the lobbying group opposes.
Randy Marshall, executive director of the New Mexico Medical Society, said his group supports undertaking a thorough fiscal analysis to gain “a total picture” on how it would actually impact the state.
The medical society is so far neutral on the Health Security Act itself, Marshall said.