The NewMexico House on Tuesday voted 56-6 to approve a bill (HB 147) that would createa Health Care Authority to develop a plan by January 2009 for "accessibleand affordable" health care for all state residents, the AP/Santa Fe New Mexican reports. The measure now moves tothe state Senate.The bill, sponsored by State Rep. Danice Picraux (D), would create the11-member Health Care Authority, comprising the state insurance superintendent,five members appointed by the governor and five members appointed by theLegislature. All decisions by the committee would need to be supported by atleast seven of the authority's members. If the bill is approved by the stateSenate, the Health Care Authority would take over the New Mexico Health Policy Commission and its budget in July. The commission'sexecutive director would serve as the interim head of the authority.
According to the AP/New Mexican, "Lawmakers have beenreluctant to make major decisions about the health care system during thesession that ends Feb. 14, and it appeared the bill approved ... on Tuesday mayhave the brightest prospects for passage." State Rep. Luciano Varela (D)said, "My concern is, if we take too much on this session, we will not dojustice to the health care system in New Mexico." Supporters of the measure say itprovides the framework for fundamental health care system changes.
Gov. Bill Richardson (D) has asked lawmakers to pass separate legislation thatwould require all state residents to obtain health insurance, expand governmentprograms and require businesses to contribute to the cost of health care. Thatbill remains in committee. Richardsonspokesperson Gilbert Gallegos said that "another study is unacceptable tothe 400,000 New Mexicans who need access to quality health care now"(Baker, AP/Santa Fe New Mexican, 2/5).