Wednesday News Roundup: NM Exchange Insurance Below National Average

Sep 25, 2013

NM Exchange Insurance Below National Average - Associated Press

A federal report finds that New Mexico's new health insurance marketplace will offer plans costing less than the national average.

Uninsured New Mexicans and small businesses can begin next week to enroll in health plans through the state's health insurance exchange.

The report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said New Mexicans will pay an average of $282 a month for a mid-range insurance plan considered a benchmark by the federal government. That's lower than the national average of $328. Those costs are before people apply any tax credits they may be eligible to receive.

Consumers can select from plans with a range of coverage called bronze, silver, gold and platinum. People will pay more out-of-pocket expenses with the least costly or bronze plans.

NM Governor Announces 3 Blue Ribbon Schools - Associated Press

Three New Mexico schools are being recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as Blue Ribbon award winners for their academic excellence.

Gov. Susana Martinez made the announcement Tuesday. She says the schools demonstrate what's possible when teachers and principals accept no excuses and put students first.

The schools are the Albuquerque Institute for Math and Science, Holloman Middle School in Alamogordo and Anthony Elementary School in southern New Mexico.

Leaders from each school will be invited to a recognition ceremony in Washington, D.C., in November.

The three New Mexico schools are among 286 nationwide to receive the awards.

In order to qualify, each school must have demonstrated overall academic excellence or progress in student achievement. The New Mexico schools were nominated after earning an A in the state's letter grading system over a three-year average.

NM School District Forms Conservation Committee - Associated Press

New Mexico's largest school district has formed a committee that will develop ways to reduce the district's use of water, electricity and natural gas.

Albuquerque Public Schools announced the formation of the 16-member committee on Tuesday. The committee is made up of school district employees, utility representatives and other community members.

Officials say the district spends about $50,000 a day for electricity, natural gas and water and sewage services at its campuses. During the last school year, the district's utility bills totaled about $17 million.

The committee will recommend ways to reduce the costs by coming up with a district-wide water and energy management plan, a school engagement program and a plan for engaging the community.

The committee plans to meet monthly and share its recommendations with the school board.

Animal Protection Groups Propose New NM Nicknames - Associated Press

On the heels of high-profile coyote and prairie dog killing contests, a coalition of conservation groups has sent the New Mexico Tourism Department a suggested list of possible new nicknames for the state.

Among the favorite monikers the groups say were suggested in a two-week online survey: "Land of Entrapment," ''The Thrill-Kill State," and "New Mexico: We'll Blow You Away!"

The groups sent a letter to the New Mexico Tourism Department asking it, as protector and promoter of New Mexico's image, to support future legislation to ban cruel treatment of wildlife and ensure that the state lives up to its current nickname, "Land of Enchantment."

Taylor Jones, Endangered Species Advocate for WildEarth Guardians, says the more than 1,500 respondents "agreed that killing contests and leg hold traps all over public lands aren't 'enchanting.'"

NWS: Storms Pushed NM Out Of 'Extreme Drought' - Associated Press

The recent heavy rains have pushed New Mexico out of extreme drought.

But the National Weather Service in Albuquerque said Tuesday that 75 percent of the state remains under moderate to severe drought conditions.

Still, Shawn Bennett of the NWS says the record rains dramatically transformed the drought conditions in the state, especially in areas that were experiencing exceptional drought before the monsoon season.

Raymond Abeyta of U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says that helped fill up reservoir levels to help farmer for next season.

Elephant Butte, the Rio Grande's largest water storage reservoir, for example, gained more than 50,000 acre feet of water in the storm. The reservoir holds 2 million acre feet of water and rose from 4.4 percent to 5.9 percent full.