Residents learn about proposed healthcare plan

By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer

A representative from the Health Security for New Mexicans Campaign met with a group of local residents on Tuesday to discuss the group’s proposed healthcare plan.

A grassroots coalition, the campaign has spent the past 15 years working to devise a healthcare plan that would benefit the citizens of New Mexico, said Dana Schultz Millen, education and outreach coordinator for the campaign.

“The idea is lets set up a plan that would be our plan for the state,” Millen said.

The proposed plan would allow everyone involved to share the risks and would not involve private insurance companies. Federal employees, military and tribes would not be covered, Millen said.

The plan would be equal to those offered by the state for its employees. Any resident of New Mexico will automatically be covered, Millen said. The plan will also be set up to allow participants to have coverage across state lines.

The plan would be monitored by an independent commission that would be comprised of 15 commissioners that would be chosen from across the state. The members would be everyday citizens, and business owners, no cabinet members would be allowed to sit on the committee. A CEO would be hired to run the plan with meetings that would be open to the public, Millen said.

“It won’t be run by the state but by an independent committee like a cooperative,” Millen said.

Employers will be required to pay a mandatory employee contribution for the plan. Under the plan, everyone will be automatically covered, whether they are young, old sick or healthy. Families and individuals on the proposed plan would pay premiums based on their income, Millen said.

“We need everybody in it together for it to work,” Millen said.

There is a growing concern that current insurance plans and programs are not working for New Mexicans. Though a sense of urgency is being felt by those connected with the campaign to get the plan into place, it could take up to three years before the plan could be ready for operation, Millen said.

“I’m concerned that we need to move faster on this,” said Delores Penrod, Portales resident.

Penrod, the former director of the Community Services Center for 35 years, is in favor of the proposed plan and hopes that something can be found to fix and improve what she feels is a broken healthcare system for the state.

“I just hope our legislature will see the light and get this passed and get us into a system that suits New Mexico,” Penrod said.

Supporters of the plan say they made a presentable showing in the last legislative session, though it did not pass. They say they’ll present it again in the next legislative session..

Millen has plans to return in the fall to present workshops to those interested in learning more about the proposed plan. For now she is trying to spread the word to citizens across the state, she said.