SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - An Albuquerque physician appointed by Gov. Susana Martinez to a state office overseeing health care reform in New Mexico has resigned.
The Santa Fe New Mexican reports Dr. Dan Derksen cited resistance from top officials to move forward when he resigned earlier this week as director of the New Mexico Office of Health Care Reform.
Derksen says there had been a shift in policy and that he had lost the battle over "policy approach and implementation" within the administration about the timeline for building a New Mexico health insurance exchange, which is meant under the federal government's health care reform law to help more people obtain health insurance.
New Mexico has the nation's second-highest uninsured rate in the nation.
As envisioned, New Mexico's exchange would function as a way to connect uninsured residents and small businesses without insurance with companies hoping to sell them a policy.
"When one out of five New Mexicans are uninsured, this is isn't something you can take a wait-and-see approach on," Derksen said.
Derksen helped New Mexico win a $34 million federal grant last year to start building the exchange's computer framework and had submitted a proposal to the state's Human Services Department recently to apply for more federal dollars to add flesh to that framework, only to be met with resistance, he said.
Since Derksen's resignation, the Martinez administration has put on hold the process of selecting a winner of a $24 million contract to build the exchange's computer framework, despite bidders submitting proposals two weeks ago.
State officials say the federal government was aware of the hold the state has put on the $24 million contract and that the money, which is part of the $34 million grant New Mexico won last year, is not in jeopardy.
On Friday, a spokesman for the governor praised Derksen for moving "this administration forward in setting up a framework to establish a statewide health insurance exchange in the face of great uncertainty from the federal government."
But Martinez spokesman Greg Blair was clear that the administration will "move forward with establishing a state-based health insurance exchange in a thoughtful and deliberative manner while reviewing the work that has been done up to this point."
Martinez herself referred to the unknowns surrounding the law last week when she told a reporter: "Why go out and start to develop that exchange with the Legislature in a permanent way when it could change overnight? That's a waste of a lot of time and energy."
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