SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – At the Roundhouse, the debate over how to ensure New Mexicans have access to healthcare continued Thursday, March 16. Lawmakers considered a proposal to study whether or not expanding Medicaid-type insurance coverage would be good for the state.

House Bill 400 directs the state’s Human Services Department (HSD) to study the potential costs and benefits of expanding state-sponsored healthcare. The idea, called Medicaid Forward, is to let New Mexicans who make too much money to qualify for standard Medicaid access Medicaid-type coverage through the state.

When the idea first came up during the legislative session, a handful of Democratic legislators introduced a bill to let New Mexico start setting up such an insurance program. But after some debate, the bill was changed to simply study the idea for now.

Thursday, March 16, Sen. Jeff Steinborn (D-Doña Ana) said the bill, and the expansion of healthcare, could help spur economic development in the state. “As a society, we benefit when people are healthy,” he said. “When people are healthy, they go to work, and they avoid chronic conditions that end up costing society lots of money.”

But some legislators pushed back on the idea: “It’s laughable to think that Medicaid is economic development,” Sen. Mark Moores (R-Abq.) replied. “Actually, it hurts. What helps is when you have private-payer healthcare.”

Although 15 Senators voted against the bill to study Medicaid Forward, the majority voted to move the bill forward to the governor’s desk. Legislators say $500,000 in funding for the study is already set aside in the budget bill passed this year.