Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham is defending her support of a New Mexico high-risk insurance program for the seriously ill after POLITICO reported that a company the New Mexico Democrat co-founded with a political ally received millions of dollars to run the program, even as most states phased out such efforts after Obamacare became a better, cheaper option for most people.
The small business co-founded by Grisham, who is running for governor, “did not make millions of dollars or anything close to that,” Grisham’s campaign manager Dominic Gabello said in a statement issued late Thursday that also attacked her political opponents. POLITICO found that the company, the Delta Consulting Group, was paid more than $2 million in fees to run the program between 2014 and 2017, according to contracts obtained through a public records request.
Grisham established the company in 2008 with Debbie Armstrong, who was elected to the New Mexico Legislature in 2014 and is treasurer of Grisham’s gubernatorial campaign. It secured its first contract to operate the state high-risk pool in 2009. Grisham sold her 50 percent stake in Delta last June. Her congressional financial disclosure forms show she earned a total of between $165,000 and $350,000 in dividends from the company from 2013 to 2016.
Critics of the New Mexico program have questioned why it still exists after the Affordable Care Act prohibited insurers from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions and offered new coverage options through the private market and Medicaid.
Armstrong, who also works as the program's executive director, previously told POLITICO that roughly 1,000 of its enrollees lack other options for reasons that include being undocumented. However, she and others familiar with the high-risk pool’s operations say it is more than likely that the program continues to cover people who are also eligible for coverage under the health care law.
Grisham’s campaign also reiterated a position voiced by high-risk pool supporters that moving everyone out of it could damage New Mexico’s broader insurance market.
“The introduction of these individuals into the [New Mexico] health insurance market could trigger a collapse of the health insurance market,” the statement said.