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March 16--SANTA FE -- Legislation to create a state-run health insurance exchange is headed for Gov. Susana Martinez's approval after passing the House on Friday and winning a concurrence vote in the Senate.
The bill, Senate Bill 221, would establish a market for people or small businesses to shop for health insurance plans under the federal Affordable Care Act. That market would be overseen by a 13-member board that includes the state superintendent of insurance, and six members appointed by each the governor and legislative leadership.
The House passed the bill 61-7 Friday. Concurrence in the Senate was required after a House committee made amendments to a section on change how fees to fund the exchange are applied.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the state-based exchange programs are required to be ready to accept members by October and in full operation by January 2014. Establishing the state-based exchange also entitles New Mexico to about $100 million in startup funds from the federal government.
"I think what we have is we have the framework," Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, said of the insurance exchange proposal. "I think it would be foolish for us to miss the opportunity to move forward with the statebased exchange. It's not perfect, but its also not as deficient as some might want us to think."
Gov. Susana Martinez's Office said Friday that Martinez supported the bill.
The bill, which passed the Senate this week 36-5, has drawn some opposition from critics who say the oversight board it would create does not have enough oversight authority.
The bill is an alternative to House Bill 168, which previously failed to pass the chamber. That bill would have allowed the board to exclude insurance plans from the exchange.
"We needed a lot more in this exchange for New Mexicans to benefit from the health care act," said Rep. Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, the sponsor of the competing bill. "I believe this is an opportunity that's lost."
Under the proposal passed by the House on Friday, the exchange's oversight board would include the state secretary of human services and other members designated as a consumer advocate, a doctor or health care provider and at least two representatives of the health insurance industry. Appointees would serve three-year terms.
An estimated 200,000 New Mexicans would be eligible to buy health insurance through the exchange from 2014 to 2020.
(c)2013 the Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, N.M.)
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