Plan to Use Innovative Funding Source to Make Health Care Affordable Heads to House Floor

HB 278 Passes Tax & Rev, Will Generate Millions for Health Care Affordability Fund & General Fund

HB 278, Rep. Debbie Armstrong’s legislation to create a Health Care Affordability Fund to help more New Mexicans afford the health care they need, passed the House Taxation and Revenue Committee on Monday and is now headed to the full House of Representatives for a vote.

Under the bill, New Mexico in 2021 would begin collecting a portion of a fee that health insurance companies had been paying the federal government under the Affordable Care Act. Congress recently repealed that fee. Now states can collect a portion of the surtax on their own. Fifty-five percent of the funds generated through this new surtax and an existing fee paid by health insurance companies would go to the Health Care Affordability Fund; the remainder will go to the General Fund.

“This is an incredible opportunity for New Mexico to create a meaningful new revenue stream that would not only fund programs to help New Mexicans afford health care, but also bring money into the General Fund,” Armstrong said.

The state would use the money in the Health Care Affordability Fund to create programs that would reduce the cost of health care. This could include covering the cost of deductibles, cost-sharing or co-pays for some New Mexicans. Another option is expanding health coverage to include some of the 190,000 New Mexicans who are currently uninsured.

HB 278 does not specify the programs that would be created using the fund. Instead, the Secretary of Human Services will put together a comprehensive plan to maximize the funding and would present the plan to the Legislative Health and Human Services Committee no later than Dec. 1, 2020. Only after the plans are approved would the Legislature appropriate money from the fund for implementation of affordability programs. HB 278 also requires detailed, ongoing reporting to show that programs created through the Health Care Affordability Fund are reducing health care costs for New Mexicans.

“I am excited to see what the future holds,” Armstrong said. “We have the power, with this one piece of legislation, to change health outcomes for hundreds of thousands of New Mexicans. No New Mexican should ever have to decide between going to the doctor or putting food on the table. It’s time to make health care affordable for everyone.”

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About Rep. Armstrong: Debbie, Chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, is a long-time health care advocate serving her second term in the New Mexico House of Representatives. Having started her career as a physical therapist, she has worked extensively as a health care administrator, working 10 years with Presbyterian Medical Services in Santa Fe. Prior to serving as Secretary of New Mexico’s Aging and Long-Terms Services Department, she oversaw the department’s Consumer and Elder Rights Division. Debbie is the mother of three adult children. She lives in Albuquerque’s North Valley.  Follow her on Twitter @NMRepArmstrong and on Facebook, and sign up for email and text updates.

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