New Mexico governor announces $200-million proposal to boost rural healthcare

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham delivers her State of the State address at the opening day of an annual legislative session in the House of Representatives in Santa Fe, N.M., on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023. (AP Photo/Andres Leighton) Andres Leighton / AP Photo

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced the introduction of bipartisan legislation that proponents hope will improve healthcare access in rural parts of the state.

Senate Bill 7 would create the Rural Health Care Delivery Fund. The fund would subsidize newly-constructed healthcare providers and facilities with new or expanded healthcare services in counties with fewer than 100,000 residents by, “defraying operating losses or up to five years,” according to a press release from Lujan Grisham’s office.

State Senator Liz Stefanics, D-Santa Fe, and State Representative Gail Armstrong, R-Magdalena, sponsored the legislation. The Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee approved the legislation on Monday with bipartisan support.

“Expanding rural health care delivery not only benefits New Mexicans in rural communities, it benefits every single New Mexican by increasing provider access statewide,” Gov. Lujan Grisham said in the release. “With the creation of the Rural Health Care Delivery Fund, we will provide critical support to hospitals, providers, and communities across New Mexico and improve health care delivery to thousands of New Mexicans.”

The Rural Health Care Delivery Fund would help create new healthcare facilities or providers while allowing rural providers to expand their services. Under the bill, the fund would receive an initial appropriation of $200 million.

Stefanics said that too many health services are hard to access for New Mexicans and that the fund aims to close that gap. 

“This funding will provide support for our rural healthcare facilities and providers across the state, giving them the ability to expand services like behavioral health, prenatal services, dialysis, rehab, and any number of other much-needed care offerings currently out of reach to too many New Mexicans,”  Stefanics said in the release. “I would like to thank Governor Lujan Grisham for recognizing this need and asking me to bring forth this legislation.”

Armstrong concurred, noting that the constituents in her rural district face this issue.

“Rural New Mexicans have been struggling with a lack of health care options for decades,” Armstrong said, according to the release. “As a representative from the largest district in New Mexico, I can attest to the struggles rural New Mexicans face in finding comprehensive health care. I am glad to work in a bipartisan manner to establish a fund dedicated to improving the health and well-being of rural New Mexicans.”

The proposal also has support from Troy Clark, President and CEO of the New Mexico Hospital Association.

“Now is the time to invest in the rural health care infrastructure in our state,” Clark said in the release. “This fund will help rural hospitals identify services their communities need, such as behavioral health, and reduce the high start-up costs for special programs so patients can get care closer to home.”

Republished with the permission of The Center Square.