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New Mexico governor signed bills aimed at improving healthcare affordability

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(The Center Square) – New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed several bills into law on Friday last week that she hopes will improve healthcare affordability.

“Delivering quality healthcare to New Mexico’s population requires a tailored approach that takes into account rural communities, New Mexicans benefiting from Medicaid, and the tens of thousands of public employees in our state,” Lujan Grisham said in a press release from her office. “These are bills that are going to positively impact a vast swath of New Mexicans.”

Lujan Grisham signed the healthcare bills during a ceremony at Sierra Vista Hospital in Truth or Consequences.

“The signing of this legislation brings immediate assistance to our community by helping us meet the needs of our residents and the thousands of New Mexicans who frequent Elephant Butte State Park and Lake annually,” Frank Cochran, CEO of Sierra Vista Hospital said. “Furthermore, the funds allocated through this legislation will stabilize our current operations and allow us to expand our much-needed behavioral health capacity, surgical services, and establish additional services.”

One bill she signed was House Bill 7. The bill deals with the Healthcare Affordability Fund — something that has saved New Mexicans about $45 million on health insurance premiums since 2021, the release said.

“The bill maintains a 55% premium surtax distribution to the fund ensuring ongoing future support for the program,” the release said..

“Since it was created in 2021, the Healthcare Affordability Fund has made our state healthier by helping tens of thousands of New Mexicans attain affordable health insurance,” said House Majority Whip Reena Szczepanski, a lead sponsor on the bill. “House Bill 7 will sustain the Healthcare Affordability Fund so that workers continue to get the coverage they need, small businesses can offer the benefits their employees deserve, and we can keep cutting New Mexico’s uninsured rate, which will reduce costs for everyone.”

Another bill Lujan Grisham signed into law was Senate Bill 14. It created a Health Care Authority for the state.

“The Health Care Authority will enhance coordination in the purchasing of health care for the state’s 180,000 public employees with a focus on improving plan design and affordability, the release said.

“Every New Mexican deserves to have access to health care. Building off our efforts last year to establish the Health Care Authority, this measure will now help in streamlining the collaboration between the Department of Health and the Health Care Authority in the sharing of data, and ultimately improve health care access and affordability across the state,” said State Senator Liz Stefanics, D-Santa Fe, one of the bill’s co-sponsors.

Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 17 into law as well. The bill, known as the Health Care Delivery and Access Act, establishes a Medicaid Directed Payment Program.

“By leveraging hospital assessments, the program will generate $1.3 billion in federal funds for hospitals in the state,” the release said. “This landmark legislation supports long-term financial stability and access to hospitals statewide, ensuring continued healthcare services in rural New Mexico, where rural hospitals often struggle to stay above the bottom line.”

Stefanics said the bill will protect rural healthcare access.

“Nearly a third of rural hospitals in New Mexico are at risk of closure due to financial challenges,” Stefanics said. “This new opportunity allowed in federal regulation to increase Medicaid payments to hospitals is a game-changer that will give New Mexico the resources we sorely need to provide better care in New Mexico. I want to thank Governor Lujan Grisham for her commitment to improving health care across the state but especially for her continued support for our rural communities.”

Plus, Lujan Grisham signed Senate Bill 161 into law.

The bill “creates a temporary financial assistance grant program for independent rural hospitals until long-term support from SB 17 is enacted in early 2025,” the release said.

“Recognizing the immediate challenges faced by these hospitals, the program aims to prevent any closures and further reductions in services,” the release said.

State Senator George Muñoz, D-Gallup, sponsored the bill.

“Rural and regional hospitals are the heart of our communities and many of them are hanging on by a thread. Passing this measure and providing this funding is critical to their operations and will help ease some of the very real financial pressures they are facing, allowing them to stay open and prioritize the health and well-being of local residents,” Muñoz said in the release. “Thank you to Governor Lujan Grisham for signing this bill and looking out for our rural hospitals.”

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