State collects money while forgotten fund piles up

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – In an effort to protect those who work in the health care industry from colleagues who abuse drugs and alcohol, the state collects an impairment fee. New Mexicans ultimately end up paying it.

But one fund has been sitting for years, piling up and forgotten about.

Chiropractic Examiners: Fees

Dr. Pat Hale, a chiropractor who has been in business in Albuquerque for 30 years, like other chiropractors, has been paying a $25 impairment fee every year he renews his license.

“At $25, nobody really noticed,” Hale said. “And why did we ever have it?”

In 2004, the Legislature passed a law that mandated chiropractors pay the fee. Other professionals in New Mexico pay similar fees.

Impairment Fees for other professions:

  • Chiropractors: $25 every year
  • Physicians: $150 every 3 years
  • Dentists: $30 every 3 years
  • Dental Hygienist: $15 every 3 years

“To help people in our profession that had a substance or alcohol abuse,” said chiropractor Lyman Atchley, chairman of the New Mexico Board of Chiropractic Examiners.

For nearly a decade, each of the state’s more than 500 chiropractors paid the fee. It’s not a lot of money, but it piled up.

Since 2005, it’s grown to $115,600. But Atchley said the board has not spent one penny of that money.

“Haven’t been able to spend it because it was designed to spend on people with impairment problems, and there’s just not an impairment problem within my profession,” Atchley said.

In fact, doctors and the examiners board forgot about the fund until KRQE News 13 called asking about it.

“It was interesting that we did have this, I forgot,” Hale said. “It was kind of nice: you bringing it back up.”

At its last meeting in April, the examiners board voted unanimously to suspend the impairment fees.

Now, members must decide whether the money should go back to the Legislature to reduce the fee or get rid of it all together.

A task force is working to figure out how to spend the money already in the fund.

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