New Mexico: Attempts to Enact Comprehensive Health Reforms Face Obstacles

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New Mexico undertook a multi-year health care reform process with recommendations advanced by the governor that would have led to universal health coverage. Governor Bill Richardson’s HealthSOLUTIONS proposal required state residents to purchase coverage—with lower-cost state-subsidized plans available for eligible residents—and mandated employers to contribute to a fund in support of such coverage, with the contribution offset by the amount paid by any employer for employee health benefits.[i] After the legislature failed to pass comprehensive health reform earlier in the year, Richardson vowed to return to the issue in a special session. Before the special session, however, he set a scaled-back goal of expanding health coverage to all children. He also proposed streamlining several state health programs to improve efficiency. In August, the governor called legislators into special session, with major health care reform a central priority. When the special session concluded in late August, the legislature had agreed to the following:

  • To fund children’s health (including behavioral health) at $22.5 million to increase enrollment among eligible children not already enrolled in Medicaid and SCHIP; and
  • To fund $10 million to treat developmentally disabled children.[ii]
Despite a state budget surplus accruing from oil and natural gas revenues, Richardson was unable to secure agreement on other coverage expansions. He characterized the outcome of the session as “modest” but with “solid gains” toward achieving his main goal of health insurance coverage for all children.[iii]

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[i] State of the States, State Coverage Initiatives, AcademyHealth, January 2008.
[ii] “Governor Bill Richardson Reacts to Special Session Results,” Office of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, press release, September 19, 2008;New Mexico Approves Modest Funding Increase to Cover Additional Children,”St@teside, State Coverage Initiatives, September 2008, available at
[iii] Ibid.