Un­paid in­sur­ance taxes start com­ing in

$17.9 mil­lion of $65 mil­lion re­ceived


SANTA FE — A state agency has al­ready col­lected more than one-quar­ter of the nearly $65 mil­lion in un­paid pre­mium taxes owed by in­sur­ance com­pa­nies, giving New Mex­ico a cash in­fu­sion just in time for the hol­i­days.

A spokes­woman for the Of­fice of the Su­per­in­ten­dent of In­sur­ance told the Jour­nal the agency has col­lected more than $17.9 mil­lion from six in­sur­ers as of Thurs­day. She did not pro­vide the names of the com­pa­nies but said they would even­tu­ally be made pub­lic.

The agency be­gan send­ing in­voices to the in­sur­ance com­pa­nies last month, af­ter a spe­cial au­dit re­leased in Oc­to­ber by then-State Au­di­tor Tim Keller iden­ti­fied $65 mil­lion in un­der­paid pre­mium taxes from 2003 to 2016.

Specif­i­cally, the au­dit looked at pre­mium tax fil­ings from 30

com­pa­nies — pri­mar­ily health in­sur­ers — and found that 17 of them owed money to the state.

The Of­fice of the Su­per­in­ten­dent of In­sur­ance then be­gan send­ing in­sur­ance com­pa­nies claims last month about un­paid taxes. The com­pa­nies have the op­tion of re­quest­ing an ad­min­is­tra­tive hear­ing if they dis­pute the tax claims and fil­ing a court ap­peal if they don’t agree with the hear­ing’s out­come.

Heather Wi­dler, a spokes­woman for the agency, said no ad­min­is­tra­tive hear­ings have been re­quested or sched­uled.

The is­sue of un­der­paid pre­mium taxes has sparked sev­eral au­dits and prompted talk of po­ten­tial leg­is­la­tion dur­ing the com­ing 30-day ses­sion to shift col­lec­tion re­spon­si­bil­ity from the in­sur­ance agency to the Tax­a­tion and Rev­enue Depart­ment, which al­ready col­lects most other types of state taxes.

More than a third of the money in ques­tion — nearly $29 mil­lion — is owed by New Mex­ico’s largest health in­surer, Pres­by­te­rian Health Plan, ac­cord­ing to the out­side au­dit, which was or­dered af­ter dis­agree­ment over pre­vi­ous es­ti­mates.

Pres­by­te­rian re­cently reached a set­tle­ment agree­ment with the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice for part of the money at is­sue. It will pay the state $18.5 mil­lion un­der the set­tle­ment’s terms.

Mean­while, State In­sur­ance Su­per­in­ten­dent John Fran­chini told law­mak­ers last year that some com­pa­nies may have “gamed” the state’s tax col­lec­tion sys­tem. He has vowed to re­cover as much of the money as pos­si­ble.

New Mex­ico has weath­ered sev­eral con­sec­u­tive years of spend­ing cuts and other bud­get belt-tight­en­ing due to lower-than-ex­pected rev­enue col­lec­tions. But new rev­enue es­ti­mates un­veiled this week project there will be $199 mil­lion in “new” money avail­able in the com­ing fis­cal year, a fig­ure that does not in­clude money col­lected by the in­sur­ance agency.

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