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Democrats plan bill for state-run health exchange

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 21, 2013 at 4:53 pm •  Published: January 21, 2013

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — A potential clash looms between the Democratic-controlled Legislature and Republican Gov. Susana Martinez over the administration's plan to implement a state-run health insurance exchange.

At issue is whether state law must be changed for the exchange, which is envisioned as an online shopping center for the uninsured to buy health coverage with benefits tailored to New Mexico.

Under federal law, the exchange must be ready to enroll people starting in October and be fully operating by next January.

The administration contends no legislation is needed to create the exchange. It's moving to have the exchange operated by the New Mexico Health Insurance Alliance, a nonprofit public corporation established in 1994 to provide access to insurance for small businesses and some individuals.

Democratic lawmakers plan legislation for implementing an exchange. The proposal will revamp the alliance's governing board to add more consumer representation and lessen the influence of the insurance industry.

"We have serious reservations not just about the legal basis of an executive moving without legislative involvement but also about the substantive content of what's in her exchange," Sen. Gerald Ortiz y Pino of Albuquerque, chairman of the Senate Public Affairs Committee, said Monday.

There's a possibility the dispute will end up in court, and the governor's chief of staff, Keith Gardner, said that could cause the state to miss the deadline for implementing the exchange. The federal government could be forced to step in and run the exchange if the state's plan is tied up in a legal fight, he said.

"By sending it to court, you're basically defaulting to the feds," said Gardner, a former legislator.

Ortiz y Pino and Rep. Mimi Stewart, an Albuquerque Democrat, are sponsoring a measure that will give the Legislature the ability to appoint some of the members of the alliance's governing board along with the governor.

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