Governor Lujan Grisham asks the legislature to create a new health agency

As he was sworn in for a second term, New Mexico’s head of state announced plans to create a new state health agency with the goal of insuring more people.

Details are still scarce about the function of the New Mexico Health Authority, an initiative announced by Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham in her 2023 inaugural address Sunday at the Lensic Theater in Santa Fe.

“This authority will streamline government efforts to support families and their health care needs by more effectively holding insurers accountable,” he said.

Basically, the proposal seeks to make it easier for hundreds of thousands of uninsured New Mexicans to access health insurance plans. The creation of the agency requires approval from the legislature.

Lawmakers will also need to determine what the health authority could do that can’t already be done by New Mexico’s existing health agencies, and it’s not yet clear which state legislature will sponsor the Roundhouse proposal. The measure announced during the inauguration festivities signals that this is a priority for the Democratic governor, whose party also controls both houses of the Roundhouse.

The health authority would be “a comprehensive entity that will expand access to services and cut the red tape that keeps too many New Mexicans from getting the high-quality, affordable care they need,” Lujan Grisham said.

Delaney Corcoran, spokesperson for Lujan Grisham’s campaign, directed all questions about the proposal to publicist Nora Meyers Sackett. So did Jodi McGinnis Porter, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health.

The health authority would purchase and oversee health insurance “with the goal of providing high-quality, affordable health care by leveraging agency programs under one authority,” Meyers Sackett said in an emailed statement. .

There are approximately 215,000 New Mexicans who are not insured, according to Health Action New Mexico. Another 100,000 are expected Kicked out Medicaid once the US government declares an end to the COVID public health emergency.

The proposal has not yet been tabled as actual legislation, said Barbara Weber, executive director of Health Action New Mexico.

“We’ve been pleased to hear that something has been proposed and we want to see what it is,” Weber said in an interview on Tuesday. “The devil will be in the details, I think.”

More information will come as plans are finalized before the next legislative session, Meyers Sackett said. Tuesday was the first day that invoices could be pre-deposited. The sessions opening day it’s January 17th.

There is no single model for a health authority, Weber said. He pointed to examples of health authorities in Oregon, Washingtonand Oklahoma.

“It really depends on what the particular interests are in terms of analyzing the system and the challenges for that particular state,” he said.

Lujan Grisham on December 30 named Patrick M. Allen as New Mexico’s new secretary of health. Allen resigned from his job at the Oregon Health Authority one month after Willamette Week reported that all three candidates for governor of that state agreed that the Oregon Health Authority was the state agency most in need of additional oversight.

Lujan Grisham announced a New Mexico authority’s proposal soon after stating in his speech that every New Mexican has the right to “achieve freedom from addiction and mental illness” and that “we should treat health care of high quality as a fundamental right”.

of New Mexico behavioral health the care system still hasn’t recovered after former Governor Susana Martinez caused many providers to shut down a decade ago.

“We will approach opioid addiction as the epidemic it is, fighting tooth and nail to provide life-saving services to victims and families who have been torn apart by this horrific disease,” Lujan Grisham said. “We must address the expansion of behavioral health care, including substance abuse treatment, as an urgent moral priority.”

The governor’s speech also touched on better health outcomes expected as a result of the state investments in free universal childcare and pre-school education.

He said he will also ask state lawmakers to “increase our public school budget this year to cover all costs of health care premiums for all educators and school workers.”

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