Human Services secretary unveils health-care plans

New Mexican staff

Days remaining in session: 53

If at first you don’t succeed…

Human Services Secretary Pam Hyde on Monday unveiled her department’s health-care reform plans for this session.

The 10-point plan includes an electronic medical records act, a
requirement that insurance companies spend 85 percent of premiums on
direct services to client, and a requirement that insurance companies
offer coverage to anyone who requests it. The package of bills also
would streamline other health care-related agencies in the state.

It would also require private commercial insurance carriers to offer
health coverage for small employers who want to offer such coverage to
their employers.

Several of the proposals were introduced last year but never gained traction.

Hyde said the will still exists to reduce the number of people
without insurance in New Mexico: “I think the Legislature is as
interested as we are in trying to get more people covered.”

Killing the death penalty: Rep. Gail Chasey, D- Albuquerque, on Monday introduced her bill to repeal the death penalty.

House Bill 285 could be heard in Chasey’s Consumer and Public
Affairs Committee as early as Thursday, abolition advocates said Monday.

In past sessions, identical bills have cleared the House of
Representatives but died in the Senate. This year, with additional
Democrats in the Senate, advocates are more optimistic. However, Gov.
Bill Richardson, who would have to sign the bill into law, has said in
the past he favors keeping capital punishment.

Talk about perks

In addition to free flu shots, goody bags and free meals in a
variety of swanky Santa Fe restaurants, legislators have another big
perk. Unlike other residents, they can get their Motor Vehicle Division
paperwork handled at the Capitol this week.

However, although they get a $145 per diem allowance, New Mexico’s 112 legislators still don’t get paid.

Looking Ahead:

• The first hearing for the Domestic Partner Rights &
Responsibilities Act (Senate Bill 12) is tentatively scheduled for
Wednesday at a joint hearing of the Senate’s Public Affairs and
Judiciary committees. The proposed meeting would be Wednesday afternoon
following the Senate floor session. The estimated start time is about
2:30 p.m. but could be later if the floor session runs late.

• A bipartisan group of senators led by Sen. Clint Harden, R-Clovis,
plans a 10 a.m. news conference today to discuss bills sponsored by
Harden that deal with autism. The conference will be held at room 326
at the Capitol. Senate Bill 39 — Insurance Coverage for Autism
Treatment — contains a health insurance mandate to cover autism
treatment for children with autism spectrum disorder through high
school.

• The Baptist Convention of New Mexico is sponsoring a legislative
breakfast Friday that will feature the music of The New Mexico Singing
Churchmen. After the breakfast, which begins at 7 a.m. at the Santa Fe
Hilton, the Singing Churchmen are scheduled to perform on the steps on
the west side of the Capitol about 10 a.m. Those interested in
attending the breakfast should call 1-800-898-8544 ext. 311, or e-mail
bnm@bcnm.co.

Quote of the day:
“I watched the State
of the State address on my computer. The mouth of the governor was
moving around … It just wasn’t a pretty picture.”
• Senate
Minority Leader Stuart Ingle, R-Portales, commenting Monday at a
committee meeting about technical problems with the webcast of the
State of the State address last week.

On our Web site: Follow legislative coverage at www.santafenewmexican.com.

Read Kate Nash’s blog, www.greenchilechatter.com and Steve Terrell’s blog, www.roundhouseroundup.com.

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