The House voted 39-30 against the legislation, which normally dooms the bill for that year.
But Rep. Lucky Varela, D-Santa Fe, asked to reconsider and place it back on the Speaker’s table. Varela was able to do this because he voted in the majority — likely just so he could bring it back to the Speaker’s table.
This likely shows that the bill needs some more work to convince the few Democrats who voted against it before it can pass.
In the bill sponsored by Mimi Stewart, D-Albuquerque, it would have a 13-person panel, including 12 voting members.
Of those members, six would be appointed by the governor, while the legislature would appoint five, including members of the minority party.
Rep. Tom Taylor, R-Farmington, said that this piece of legislation would not save any money. Taylor has his own health insurance exchange legislation that has not moved in the legislature as of yet.
“It’s not going to save any money,” Taylor said. “We spend money on these people right now because they drain our indigent funds, they show up to our emergency rooms in hospitals.”
Taylor says that he prefers a free-market insurance exchange.
Stewart said that she had been talking with the governor and health insurance companies in trying to craft a compromise bill. She noted that the in some cases, the bill was more to the governor’s liking while in other cases, it was more to the liking of Demcorats.
Steart noted that this was not the first year of discussion on the legislation.
“This reflects about five years of work in our interim Health and Human Services Committee,” Stewart said.
Rep. Gail Chasey, D-Albuquerque, noted that the bill was not necessarily just the work of Steawrt.
“I think sometimes gets to where legislators believe that there are one of us who actually owns an issue or a bill. And that’s not necessarily the case,” Chasey said. “In this case, the lady is carrying the bill for the people of New Mexico. For the health and human resources legislative committee.”
Rep. Nate Gentry, R-Albuquerque, said the bill was ill-advised because of the work the governor was doing on an exchange.
“We’re trying to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory,” he said.
Gentry advanced the theory that Democrats wanted the bill to clear both chambers then have the governor veto it. Gentry said in that case that there would be lawsuits against the state and it would result in a federal exchange.
One reason there are movements for legislative input in the health insurance exchange is because of an opinion by the Attorney General which says the state constitution mandates the legislature must be involved.
It is unclear where this legislation will go from here and whether it will have enough time to navigate the Senate if it does pass the House.
NM Telegram will update this piece when we learn which Democrats, in addition to Varela, voted against the exchange.
Update (4:05 pm):
NM Telegram is told the follow Democratic representatives voted against the legislation: Patricia Lundstrom, Sandra Jeff, Mary Helen Garcia, Dona Irwin, Roberto Gonzales, Kiki Saavedra, Debbie Rodella and Varela.