by Nick Estes
April 14, 2011

It’s deeply disappointing that the Governor decided to veto SB 38/370 (Senator Dede Feldman D-Albuquerque), which the Legislature passed to create a New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange. The exchange would have been a web-based marketplace where individuals and small employers could compare different private insurance policies before they purchase. This would promote competition and lower prices. Plus the exchange would pool the risk from individuals and small businesses so that they could get the lower rates presently offered to large employers. Both businesses and individuals stand to get help from the federal government with premiums if we ever get an exchange set up.

Passage of this bill by the Legislature followed eight months of meetings by a joint legislative and executive working group, working with a diverse group of individuals and representatives from the business and insurance industries. Hours of negotiations in the Legislature produced a good compromise bill that had broad support. What a waste to see all these efforts go down the drain.

The Governor said she was worried about the cost of the exchange, but there will be no cost to the state for developing the exchange; the federal government would have paid the full set-up costs until 2015. The exchange thereafter would run on fees charged to the participating insurance companies. By vetoing the bill, the Governor cost the state millions of dollars in federal money that we could have obtained by getting started sooner rather than later.

We must have an exchange up and running by the beginning of 2013 or the federal government will step in and do it for us. This is a complicated undertaking and there was no reason not to get started now and shake out the kinks we are bound to discover as we go forward. Any concerns by the Governor could have been worked out during the two years before it actually goes into operation.

Nick Estes is a Deputy Policy Director for NM Voices for Children