SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico’s healthcare industry is grappling with the insurance industry, according to experts. And Monday, February 20, legislators proposed a fix.

New Mexico’s doctors and healthcare providers use medical malpractice insurance to protect themselves against lawsuits. But independent outpatient facilities are having trouble finding affordable insurance, some say.

Previous legislation “misclassified outpatient facilities as a hospital, and what that resulted in is that there is no insurer in the country that will provide us insurance,” Dr. Gabrielle Adams, the president of Southwest Gastroenterology and Southwest Endoscopy, told legislators. Adams says this hurts small, independent outpatient providers.

To fix the issue, a handful of Republican legislators sponsored House Bill 88. The bill would place an upper limit on how much independent outpatient facilities can be sued for.

The bill would make permanent the existing $750,000 (per occurrence) cap on claims for injury and death against outpatient facilities. Without some sort of cap, the upper limit will go to $5 million next year. With that, finding proper insurance would be challenging or impossible for some, bill supporters say.

Debate over the bill was fairly heated. Republican legislators, such as Rep. Harlan Vincent (R-Tularosa & Ruidoso), suggested that without the bill, New Mexico’s healthcare worker shortage could increase. But some Democratic legislators, such as Rep. Pamelya Herndon (D-Abq.) thought that private insurance must surely be an option for clinics and that perhaps only a few clinics or doctors would be negatively affected should the bill not move forward. And some legislators said the focus should be on protecting patients rather than protecting providers.

Following debate, the committee’s Democrats all voted to table the bill. The three Republicans in the committee voted against tabling the bill, but it wasn’t enough to keep the bill moving forward.