New cabinet-level Health Care Authority proposed
Legislation calls for reorganization of state’s health care services
After calling for the creation of a new health care agency to move New Mexico closer to “universal health care” in her State of the State address last month, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham endorsed a bill Tuesday that appears to inch the state closer to that goal.
New legislation introduced on Monday aims to rename the New Mexico Human Services Department as the Health Care Authority Department with the purpose of “establishing a single, unified department for health care purchasing, regulation and policy,” according to news release from the governor’s office.
The legislation comes during a transitional time for New Mexico’s health and human services agencies. Patrick Allen was appointed as secretary of the state Department of Health in December. The agency had been led since July 2021 by David Scrase, who balanced those duties with his role as secretary of the state’s Human Services Department. Scrase retired as human services secretary in January and HSD Deputy Secretary Kari Armijo is serving as interim leader of the department.
Allen had led the Oregon Health Authority between 2017 and late 2022 — an agency with 5,000 employees and a $15 billion annual budget. But if the proposed legislation passes and Allen remains health secretary, the newly constituted Health Care Authority Department wouldn’t fall under his purview.
Senate Bill 16, sponsored by Democratic legislators Sen. Elizabeth Stefanics and Rep. Elizabeth Thomson, would rename HSD and transfer three divisions within the Department of Health and General Services Department to the Health Care Authority Department.
The divisions that would fall under the newly named authority include the Health Improvement Division and Developmental Disabilities Division from DOH, as well as the State Health Benefits Division from GSD. Moreover, the legislation proposes a transfer of committees from the two state departments — the Groups Benefits Committee and the Health Policy Commission.
The legislation currently sits in the Senate Rules Committee.
“Consolidating purchasing, oversight and health care policy in one department creates an exceptional opportunity to leverage the state’s purchasing power and other policy tools to make high quality health care affordable and more accessible to all,” the governor said.
A section of the proposed legislation says the governor can issue an executive order that “moves divisions and programs to or from other departments to accomplish the reorganizational goals of this act.” Recommended organizational changes and statutory changes would need to be reported to two legislative committees by November and a final report would be due to the Legislature by January 2024.