Sunday, July 23, 2006

Richardson Health Care Plan

On Friday, Governor Richardson revealed his 5 point plan to extend health care coverage to more New Mexicans.

From the Governor's press release, the plan includes:
1. Phase in a requirement that companies that do business with the state must offer health insurance benefits to their New Mexico employees. The General Services Department will lead a small group of cabinet secretaries to develop a plan that will institute this requirement by fiscal year 2008. This group will be sensitive to the needs of small vendors.

2. The General Services Department will pinpoint the number of state employees who decline health coverage. Currently, if an employee declines enrollment, the state does not check to see if they have coverage through a spouse or another entity. This full accounting will help get an accurate picture of the coverage gaps and target outreach to get as many state employees covered as possible.

3. Maximize the Medicaid program. For fiscal year 2008, Governor Richardson will seek funding to increase coverage for adults via a two-year, phased-in approach. This initiative will be specifically designed to help low income adults up to 100% of the federal poverty level. It will leverage millions of dollars in additional federal funding and help cover tens of thousands of New Mexicans.

4. Funding to expand the State Coverage Insurance program to help cover more working adults and asking the federal government to raise the federal poverty requirement to 300% with cost-sharing based on income. Expanding this public/private partnership with small employers will help cover the many hardworking New Mexicans who currently cannot afford insurance.

5. Governor Richardson and the legislative leadership have appointed a 21-member task force to analyze health coverage models and make recommendations on across-the-board coverage solutions for New Mexicans. This Coverage for New Mexicans Committee will have broad membership from the health care industry, insurance and advocacy communities (list attached.) This committee will deliver its findings to the Governor in a year, in time to work with the legislature on a comprehensive health coverage package for the 2008 session.
With New Mexico's growing economy and the fiscal responsibility that Governor Richardson has showed in the first term of his administration, it makes a lot of sense to use surplus funds to take care of the growing issue of health care. In my state, health care is second only to education in terms of the budget, and education funding is constitutionally mandated. In New Mexico, I'm sure Governor Richardson is facing the same issues with rising health care costs.

The Bush Administration and GOP Congress have demonstrated that they're in bed with the HMO's and pharmaceutical companies. We can expect no help in the near future from the federal government on health care costs, which underscores the point Governor Richardson made when he met with us last week that the state is where the action is.

One of the things I really like about Governor Richardson is that he is a man of action. He sees the big picture and he goes after it. This 5 point health care plan is another example of his strong, visionary leadership.


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