This story is a staff report from The Paper.

Courtesy Health Action NM

It was health insurance day in the State House on Monday as legislators debated and passed two big bills relating to health insurance in New Mexico.

The first would add a 1% tax to health insurance premiums in the state. That tax would help subsidize plans for low-income residents.

A bill that would impose a tax on many New Mexicans’ health insurance premiums to help offset coverage for lower-income people has cleared the state House of Representatives.

House Bill 122, sponsored by Reps. Debbie Armstrong and Javier Martínez, both Albuquerque Democrats, would increase the 1 percent surtax on insurance premiums to 2.75 percent to create the Health Care Affordability Fund. The money would be used to aid self-employed workers and other people who purchase policies through New Mexico’s Obama-era health insurance exchange.

A fiscal impact report estimates the measure would raise about $153 million per year, with 55 percent going to the new health insurance fund and the rest flowing into the state’s general fund.

Armstrong told lawmakers the legislation means “more business for insurance carriers, more people enrolling [in health insurance programs], more premium income and more people insured.”

A second bill, House Bill 272, allows residents to check a box on their state income tax form to see if they are eligible for free or low-cost health insurance through the state’s health exchange. More than 113,000 New Mexicans could benefit, according to the bill’s sponsor, Albuquerque Representative Liz Thomson. It passed the House 48-18.

Thomson explained the bill and the expected benefits to KOAT news.

Both bills now move to the state senate.

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This content is paid for by Health Action New Mexico.