While the country grapples with the issue of vaccinating children prompted by the frightening resurgence of measles outbreaks, both bodies of the Legislature passed a bill with bipartisan support that would require health insurance to help the state purchase vaccines for privately insured children in New Mexico.
Senate Bill 121 (SB 121), Vaccination Purchasing Act, was unanimously passed by the New Mexico House of Representatives last Friday after clearing the Senate floor with no opposition on March 5. The bill, which carries an emergency clause, was sponsored by Senator Bill O’Neill (D-13-Bernalillo) and Representative Terry H. McMillan (R-37-Dona Ana). The bill, amended in the Senate Judiciary Committee, would immediately become law upon the governor’s signature.
“SB 121 is an example of successful legislation that can be crafted if all stakeholders are willing to compromise,” said Sen. O’Neill. “We worked closely with the state Department Of Health, the Superintendent of Insurance, the New Mexico Pediatric Society, the Governor’s Office, and representatives from both insurance companies and drug manufacturers.”
“This is an important bill that ensures our state’s children will continue to be vaccinated at an exemplary rate in comparison with other states.”
New Mexico is among a handful of states that operate universal vaccine purchasing programs aimed at boosting immunization rates. But here, paying into the program is voluntary.
Sen. O’Neill adds that the legislation will help the state maintain its standing as it works to keep immunization rates from slipping. In 2013, New Mexico rated 17th nationally in child-vaccination ratings.
“This is something that we do well as a state,” Sen. O’Neill added. “Now is not the time to lose ground.”