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Health security for New Mexicans a step closer to reality  

by Véronique De Jaegher | March 18, 2021
3 min read
Source: AARP

Editor’s Note: Before the beginning of the 2021 legislative session in Santa Fe, the Sun published a guest column headlined “How affordable health care can become a reality in New Mexico.” The author, Véronique De Jaegher, an active advocate at the grassroots level for the New Mexico Health Security Plan, has provided an update on the enabling legislation.

Let me bring you up to date on what has happened to House Bill 203 during this session of the New Mexico legislature. HB203 would have funded the planning and design phase of the New Mexico Health Security Plan, a cooperative-style program that will provide guaranteed, comprehensive health care coverage to most New Mexicans.

But the bill never made it out of the House Appropriations Committee, chaired by Rep. Patricia Lundstrom, a longtime Democratic legislator who represents San Juan and McKinley Counties.

With just a couple of days left in the legislative session, it’s clear that HB203 is not going anywhere. And it turns out that that’s actually okay.

Every year, the legislature must develop a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. In some years, legislators also get to allocate a certain amount of funding on their own initiative to projects and programs that are important for their constituents and the state. This session, legislators who support the Health Security Plan committed $575,000 for the planning and design process.

These monies are included in Senate Bill 377—the so-called “Junior” bill. This general appropriation and expenditure bill was passed by the House this week and is now back in the Senate for concurrence. It will then go to the governor for her signature.

Oddly enough, the need for a workaround also occurred in 2019 with legislation that would have begun the HSP planning process, starting with a cost analysis of the Health Security Plan. That bill didn’t pass, but the legislature appropriated funding that allowed the analysis to proceed. The resulting report showed that the Health Security Plan will slow rising health care costs and produce estimated savings of $1.6 billion to $2.7 billion in the first five years of the plan’s operation, compared to what will be spent during that period on health care in New Mexico if we continue with the current system

With the needed funding in the 2021 Junior, HSP planning will go forward under the auspices of the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance.

Under the provisions of the $575,000 appropriation in Junior, Superintendent of Insurance Russell Toal, an appointed state executive, will carry out three specific and interconnected assignments:

  • establish an advisory council
  • seek technical advice and assistance
  • research and design a system of comprehensive health coverage for all New Mexicans.

On behalf of my fellow Health Security Plan advocates and the citizens of this state, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank HB203’s sponsors and the legislators who allocated their Junior funds to keep alive the dream of a day when hard-working New Mexican families will have affordable health coverage, equivalent to the comprehensive coverage enjoyed by state employees.

 

 

 

 

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DON’T-MISS EVENT

“Growing Independence” Call for Volunteers

T pr C community garden

Saturday, May 15 and Saturday, May 22 from 9-10 a.m., East Fourth Street Community Garden, Truth or Consequences

Growing Independence is a new local not-for-profit organization that provides resources to encourage and enable Sierra Countians to grow their own food and reduce dependence on long-distance supply chains. This Saturday, Growing Independence will be planting “starts” at the Community Garden on East Fourth Street behind the Truth or Consequences Public Library. The following Saturday, deer fence to protect the plantings will be installed. Interested parties are invited to come either or both days to lend a hand with this initiative to restore the community garden as a flourishing source of fresh vegetables to be donated to area food banks and other hunger-fighting programs. Please RSVP to 575-202-8642 if you intend to volunteer.

Sierra County Farmers Market Vendor Meeting

Sierra County Farmer's Market banner

CANCELLED May 15, from 10 a.m.-noon. Ralph Edwards Park, Truth or Consequences.

The vendor meeting May 15th has been CANCELLED. Ralph Edwards Park is not ready. The vendor sign-ups and site allocations will be handled on June 5th at the first market day of season. Vendors who wish to submit their paperwork in advance should contact market manager Colleen IN PERSON.

Colleen Davis
300 E. 4th Avenue
Truth or Consequences
607-227-4137 cell

HAVE YOU SEEN?

Third day on the job, Swingle brings transparency and reality to T or C’s budgeting process, Parts 1 and 2

In addition to contending with a $1.6 million deficit in the fiscal year 2021-2022 draft budget, new city manager Bruce Swingle informed the city commissioners that they must play a lead role in identifying departmental spending priorities and cuts and devising a plan within two years to end the practice of balancing the budget with transfers from utility fees.

Peter A. Lawton (T or C) commented on Part 1: It is nice to see there finally seems to be an adult in charge in our city. Great article!

Barb Dewell (T or C) commented on Part 2: I’m really surprised so much is going on in T or C that the commissioners don’t know anything about. It’s very disappointing. They don’t even appear to want to ask questions. It seems reports are made, Luna makes her comments, no one else has a question or comment, and the issue either goes the way Commissioner Luna wants or it’s tabled, I guess. This isn’t how our city should be run. Thank goodness for City Manager Swingle. I hope he is able to corral all this spending and these very loose approvals and get the city finances back on track. I know most residents are really worried about all this, as I’ve been, and we have high hopes for City Manager Swingle’s leadership.

Ronn Fenn (T or C) commented on Part 2: For a long time I’ve been questioning why this airport is a T or C-funded facility and not a county facility with its location about five miles from the recognized city proper and serving a largely non-resident user base. It and its annual transfer funds to support its operation needs to be investigated. This facility is not and probably never will be an income-producing asset. Its operating costs should be spread throughout the county and not borne solely by T or C’s residents. Pie in the Sky is not likely to land in T or C.

Lydia Dixon (T or C) commented on Part 2: This is great reporting. People would not know most of this if it were not published here. Thanks!

 

 

Welcome, Bruce!

Now that you’ve had a couple days to settle in as city manager, please consider implementing these 10 doable fixes that will make the governance of the City of Truth or Consequences more transparent, responsive and effective.

Reader Joey Perry (T or C) commented: Great suggestions. Here’s one more. Make the meeting agendas more informational. In addition to the ordinance number, include a sentence or two (in plain English) saying what the item is about and why it is on the agenda—e.g., what is the issue? This would help me decide if I want to attend a meeting, or write a letter to the manager or the commissioners, expressing my views ahead of the meeting.

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