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Governor appoints NM health exchange board members

Barry Massey, Associated Press

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) -- Medical care, insurance and business officials were named by Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday to a board that will govern New Mexico's state-run health insurance exchange, which must be quickly implemented in the new few months.

The exchange is to serve as a marketplace for the uninsured to buy medical coverage. The board faces a tight deadline of having the exchange ready to enroll uninsured New Mexicans in October and be fully operating by January.

Martinez announced six appointees to the exchange's board of directors. They join six members named by legislators earlier this month. The state superintendent of insurance is on the 13-member board but votes only to break ties.

The board meets for the first time next week in Albuquerque.

Under a federal health care overhaul, states had the option of establishing their own exchange or leaving it to the federal government. Nearly 200,000 New Mexicans may be able to buy health insurance through the exchange by 2020.

Legislation was signed into law last month to establish the exchange and have it operated by the New Mexico Health Insurance Alliance, a nonprofit public corporation established in 1994 to provide access to insurance for small businesses and some individuals.

The new board will oversee both organizations but the alliance will be phased out in 2015. Martinez initially sought to establish an exchange using the alliance but without changing state law. To avoid a possible court fight over the issue, the administration negotiated with lawmakers on establishing the framework of the exchange and outlining powers of its governing board.

Among the board's early tasks is to select a contractor to establish a computer system needed for the exchange to operate an online shopping center for uninsured individuals and small businesses to compare and buy insurance plans. The alliance had started soliciting bids from potential contractors but the final selection was put on hold earlier this year while the governor and lawmakers resolved their differences over the exchange.

The governor's appointees were:

— Human Services Secretary Sidonie Squier, who by law must be on the board.

— Dr. J. R. Damron, a Santa Fe physician and radiologist who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in 2010. Damron is a member of the alliance's governing board and has been involved in early decision-making about the exchange.

— Terriane Everhart, who owns a real estate and marketing company in Las Cruces. The governor's office said Everhart has been active in an organization that helps provide health care for women and children in Dona Ana County.

— Gabriel Parra of Albuquerque, a lawyer for Presbyterian Healthcare Services, which operates a network of hospitals, physician groups and a health insurance plan. It is New Mexico's largest managed care organization. The governor named Parra earlier this month to a panel that will select the insurance superintendent, who will run a newly independent insurance regulation office.

— Ben Slocum, president and CEO of Lovelace Health Plan, which provides managed care health insurance coverage.

— Dr. J. Deane Waldman, a professor in the Pediatrics Department at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center. The governor selected Waldman to serve as a consumer advocate on the board.

State law requires the board to have at least one consumer advocate, one health care practitioner and two insurance industry representatives.

Board members appointed by legislators are: New Mexico Health Connections CEO Martin Hickey; Nor-Lea General Hospital CEO David Shaw; Roosevelt General Hospital CEO Larry Leaming; Easter Seals El Mirador CEO Patsy Romero; Futures for Children CEO Teresa Gomez; and Jason Sandel, vice chairman of the New Mexico Medical Insurance Pool.


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