KUNM Local
2:53 pm
Mon March 15, 2010

New Mexico congressional delegation on Health Care Bill likely to see votes in House this week

Albuquerque, NM – This week could bring a final Congressional vote on a proposed overhaul of the nation's health care system.

Late this week, the House of Representatives is likely to vote on the Senate version of the legislation.

The House may then immediately try to make changes to it using the budget reconciliation process.

One holdup has been that some House members, like New Mexico First District Representative Martin Heinrich, have some issues with the Senate bill.

HEINRICH: "There were several states that were able to negotiate better deals under the Medicaid program as part of the final negotiations in the Senate bill. And I'm a big believer that all the states ought to be treated the same. If you have a formula, that's fine. But there shouldn't be different political solutions for one state versus another."

Heinrich is also opposed to the Senate bill's tax on so-called "Cadillac" insurance plans to pay for expanding coverage.

He says in reconciliation, some hybrid of that and the House plan to tax people making over $500,000 a year is likely.

There's been some criticism of the Senate bill for not placing stronger restrictions on insurance companies to stop big rate increases. New Mexico U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman says insurance coverage mandates should help.

BINGAMAN: "Since we'll have many more people involved in purchasing insurance, we believe that will bring down rates, all of the actuaries and all of the economists who've looked at it say this will bring down premium insurance costs for individuals.

Meanwhile, there are questions today about whether the House has the votes to pass the Senate bill. Heinrich is optimistic.

HEINRICH: "I think people realize this is something that's sort of a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something very positive for the American people, and reign in an insurance industry that's just been out of control for the last two decades."

If the overhaul is passed, the ban on denying coverage because of pre-existing conditions would begin next year.

Other provisions, like expanding Medicaid eligibility and extending tax credits to buy insurance, wouldn't start until 2013 or 2014.