New Mexico official orders insurance companies to expand timely access to behavioral health services

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s top insurance regulator on Tuesday ordered health insurance companies to expand timely access to behavioral health services in response to the governor recently declaring a public health emergency over gun violence in the state's largest metropolitan area.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham initially sought to ban people from the open and concealed carry of firearms in Albuquerque and surrounding Bernalillo County, but a federal judge put that effort on hold pending the outcome of multiple legal challenges.

Still, other provisions of the order remain in place, including mandates by the governor for public health officials to address substance abuse and mental health problems.

Superintendent of Insurance Alice Kane's emergency order mandates that major medical health insurers cover out-of-network behavioral health services at in-network rates.

"My office is committed to reducing barriers to vital care and doing everything we can to improve timely access to critical behavioral health care services,” Kane said in a statement.

The order applies to all fully-insured individual, small and large group health plans, including those sold through the New Mexico health insurance marketplace.

Lujan Grisham has faced a public backlash for her health emergency, which many critics have described as an assault on constitutional rights that allow a person to carry a firearm for self defense.

Republican lawmakers are threatening impeachment proceedings, and even some influential Democrats and civil rights leaders have warned that Lujan Grisham's actions could do more harm than good to overall efforts to ease gun violence. Even a U.S. House committee was considering a resolution admonishing the governor. The proposal cited previous U.S. Supreme Court decisions on gun rights.