New Mexico exchange subject to sunshine laws

New Mexico's health insurance exchange subject to state's open government laws

Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- New Mexico's open government laws will apply to a state-run health insurance exchange that will serve as a marketplace for the uninsured to buy medical coverage.

Legislation enacted this year makes clear the exchange and its 13-member governing board must comply with New Mexico's Open Meetings Act and the Inspection of Public Records Act.

Those laws will require board meetings to be open to the public and that records, such as the exchange's contracts and other expenditures, are available for inspection by the public.

The exchange's staff and board members also are subject to a law prohibiting conflicts of interest by public officials.

The board held its first meeting last week and one of its biggest challenges is to select a contractor for a computer system the exchange needs to operate an online shopping center for uninsured individuals and small businesses to compare and buy insurance plans.

State law exempts the exchange from procurement procedures and deadlines that apply to state and local governments for approving contracts.

Matt Kennicott, a spokesman for the Human Services Department, said Thursday the exemption was provided to help the exchange more quickly establish its computer system. Under federal law, the exchange needs to be able to enroll uninsured New Mexicans in October and be fully operating by January.

He said the exchange plans to use the state's procurement procedures as guidelines for handling contracts, but hopes to speed up the soliciting and review of bids and selection of a computer vendor.

State law also exempts the exchange from a law governing the hiring of state employees, their salaries and job protections.

The exchange is being operated through the New Mexico Health Insurance Alliance, a nonprofit public corporation established in 1994 to provide access to insurance for small businesses and some individuals.

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