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The saga which has led us to our current healthcare crisis is that HB 75-The Medical Malpractice Act, written and sponsored by trial attorneys, was passed in 2021 and wrongfully grouped physicians and independently owned outpatient care facilities (OCFs) into the same category as hospitals. This deliberate grouping allows independent physicians and OCFs to be sued for the same dollar amounts as a hospital, raising malpractice caps from hundreds of thousands of dollars to multiple millions of dollars.
This move by HB 75 is grossly outside the national standards for medical malpractice coverage, and consequently, there is no insurer willing to write a policy for such a deviation from national norms. Therefore, if physicians and independently owned OCFs, which includes Dialysis Centers, cannot obtain adequate medical malpractice insurance coverage because of the healthcare crisis fabricated by HB 75, they will be forced to close their doors by Jan. 1, 2024. Clearly, losing independently owned OCFs and Dialysis Centers across the entire state would be critically damaging to many New Mexicans.
Everyone agrees, including physicians, that patients absolutely should be rightfully compensated for injuries and loss due to medical errors and malpractice. That is the exact reason why physicians and OCFs in New Mexico must be able to secure adequate malpractice insurance coverage.
New Mexico has lost more than 600 primary care physicians and 63 OBGYN physicians since 2017. The cost of medical malpractice insurance has already significantly increased and is much higher than in our neighboring states. Bills and policies such as HB 75 have caused physicians to flee the state since 2021 and caused others to not practice here. This cannot be tolerated.
Every day I have patients tell me their primary care doctor or specialist moved and they cannot get an appointment with another physician for many months. I know that many of you have experienced the same situation. We cannot suffer losing more physicians and OCFs, which will lead to even more problems with patients obtaining timely appointments due to lack of access to care.
The last week of February, two critical bills were introduced that would address and fix this dire situation created by the writers of HB75. Our elected lawmakers had an opportunity to correct the crisis that they created. Unfortunately, one of those bills, HB 88, died in committee.
The other bill, SB 296 was scheduled to be heard Thursday, March 2. Yet, while the future of New Mexico healthcare flails, lawmakers have already passed many noncritical bills like SB 188, Official State Aroma. Do you feel more secure knowing we now have an Official State Aroma?
As a native New Mexican and physician, I love our state, it truly is the Land of Enchantment. I consider it an honor to serve and raise my family here. I know many of you feel the same. Your fellow New Mexicans and our healthcare system need your voice to advocate for preserving good, accessible and affordable healthcare in New Mexico. Today, please contact your state senator asking them to support SB 296. You can also be present during SB 296 presentation via Zoom meeting, the link for that online meeting is pending at this time. Let’s show our legislators that we believe healthcare in New Mexico is far more important that our Official State Aroma. You can find your House and Senate representatives at https://nmlegis.gov/Members/Find_My_Legislator
Dr. Coalson operates Southwest Gynecology, Inc. in Las Cruces