A House committee’s move on Sunday that one local lawmaker called “an example of the worst kind of government” could implement an $8.82 fee per occupied bed in nursing homes across New Mexico.
The move is projected to raise about $22.5 million in state money.
Because of the money the state would raise through a federal funding match, nursing homes are expected to avoid any increased costs.
However, one local lawmaker is upset with the lack of notice and public feedback the legislation received.
It was heard by the House Appropriations Committee and passed on party lines.
The Senate Finance Committee gave the green light to the $8.82 tax on Tuesday. It will move next to the Senate floor. Officials have estimated that Medicaid needs a 29 percent increase in spending next year to keep up their current spending.
Rep. Brian Moore, R-Clayton, said the governor’s administration snuck in the bed tax increase at the last minute. It was the first time lawmakers had seen the new item on an agenda.
“We met to hear a number of bills on Sunday,” Moore said. “The agenda was printed on Saturday afternoon, so everybody could see what bills we were hearing and could come to support or oppose the bills. Then, just as we were finishing our agenda, here comes a second agenda with one bill on it — the bed tax increase. With no notice, and very little debate, the bill was passed.”
Moore said he’s received many e-mails and phone calls from people who are opposed to the proposal.
“They threw a bill in there for the bed taxes and no one knew it was coming,” he said. “I was really disappointed with that. I felt that, until Sunday, we had made some good strides. I have talked to friends on the other side of the aisle and they are also upset.”
The chairman of the appropriations committee, Mark Coll, who is a Democrat, has said things needed to move fast because of the amount of time that is left in the session. The session ends on Feb. 19.
Those who supported the vote on Sunday night have said lawmakers need to make sure the state budget has enough revenue measures in it. The bed tax would be one of those measures. If those measures aren’t in the budget, lawmakers would have to make more cuts to the budget, supporters said. Time would be a big factor in that, they said.
Rep. Jose Campos, D-Santa Rosa, the only Democrat in the area, didn’t return phone calls for comment on the vote.
Gov. Bill Richardson’s administration submitted the bill.
“I guess leadership decided that this needed to happen,” Moore said.
Moore said the bill was a big mistake.
“The problem with this bill is that it’s nothing but an Enron accounting game to get more money from the federal government for our failing Medicaid program,” he said.
The decision on such an important issue should have never been made late in the night, Moore said.
“To be making these major decisions late at night, without notice and no public input, is shortsighted and unfortunate for all of us,” Moore said. “This is not the way state government is supposed to work.”
The legislation will make it to the House by Wednesday.
“This will keep nursing homes from losing any money,” Moore said.
Despite the fact that nursing homes wouldn’t be financially impacted, he said he didn’t understand why the administration slipped the item through.
“They have more Democrats than Republicans in all committees and on the floor,” Moore said. “I just can’t figure out what the point of it is.”
The deal just looked bad, he said.
“Democrats on the appropriations committee are all unhappy,” he said.
Moore said there could be problems with funding down the road.
“The federal government could look at this and come back in a year or two and decide that this is unacceptable and decide not to pay it,” he said. “This has happened in the past.”
Richardson’s administration is searching for ways to cover rising Medicaid costs.
As a way of raising more money, Richardson hopes to increase all premium taxes on managed care organizations.
The House’s budget, which was approved last week, has the administration saving $39 million in Medicaid next year and says the Legislature will raise $15 million in new revenues for Medicaid.