The Las Vegas City Council and mayor recently endorsed a medical discount plan called Health Care Partners. It is not insurance, but some local officials appear to believe it is. One councilman has since withdrawn his endorsement. The Health Care Partners plan is a for-profit plan which, for a monthly fee, gives enrollees a discount on medical services from participating healthcare providers. Such plans are not insurance; they simply offer discounts on some medical bills. Because such plans are not insurance, they are not regulated by the state of New Mexico. And because much of the marketing of such plans is confusing and even misleading, the Federal Trade Commission, the Better Business Bureau and several state insurance commissions have published warnings to consumers about medical discount plans. “All the insurance programs that come through here we see as a service to the people,” Mayor Henry Sanchez said. “We endorse them. It’s not our insurance program; it’s a service to the people.”Las Vegas City Councilman Morris Madrid said, “Health Care Partners is intended to provide a lot of the benefits you would get from an insurance plan. It’s not really a health discount plan; it is a program to make available health insurance to the uninsured.” Councilman Cruz Roybal said, “I thought it was a nonprofit. I don’t think I could support a for-profit business. A lot of times we get information about a business and out of courtesy we promote it, but it’s not always a good thing.” Councilwoman Diane Moore said what was presented was hard for her to digest. “It was my understanding that this was insurance, or health care, anyway,” Moore said. Councilman Macario Gonzalez said he thought the plan was nonprofit, but he didn’t believe it matters. “It is irrelevant to me,” Gonzalez said. “As long as a business comes to us for support, we are only saying we like the idea and that’s that. It appeared to me anyway that it was something to consider.”Councilmen Eugene Romero and Michael Gallegos did not return calls requesting comment. City Councilman Louis Trujillo announced at a recent meeting that he wanted to withdraw his endorsement of Health Care Partners. “I wasn’t comfortable endorsing a product I hadn’t studied myself” Trujillo said. “There are a lot of discount health programs out there, and I would hate to endorse something that was not good for my constituents. And it shouldn’t be the role of government to endorse any one commercial product.” Rita Torres, CEO of Health Care Partners, says she doesn’t consider the plan to be a medical discount plan because the plan provides services in addition to the medical discounts, such as patient advocacy and a 24-hour nurse hotline. And while she does not dispute that Health Care Partners is a for-profit commercial enterprise, she said profit is not her motive. “We don’t make any profit off this program,” Torres said. “We are subsidizing it off our own means and feel that it is a good program to be providing.”The San Miguel County Commission also passed a resolution in support of Health Care Partners. Local officials took part in a ceremony for the business in late October.