It’s no secret that New Mexico’s capacity for managing its own budget always has been inadequate at best. From the state of our education system to that of our infrastructure, simply throwing money at an issue has never been the answer for improving our state.
Based on these observations, it seems obvious that hastily adopting an expensive state government health insurance system would inevitably fall to mismanagement and do nothing but worsen our financial situation.
The proposed Health Security Act will require not only increased taxes but also an amount of foresight and financial management that we simply can’t expect our Legislature to handle efficiently. According to the New Mexico Health Security campaign website, the Health Security Act “will be paid for by using existing public dollars, along with employer contributions and premiums based on income.”
Basically, it is a pipe dream of a public health care system that services “most” New Mexicans by raising employers’ payroll taxes and premiums for families.
As a small-business owner, this proposal will directly impact my ability to run my company. It will likely also affect the very employees who it claims to protect. What happens when the payroll tax increase is beyond my company budget, forcing me to reduce their hours or adjust pay rates? What happens when their own premiums end up actually being higher than before, and for slower, less reliable care?
This payroll tax could have a significant impact on both workers and employers like myself. But there are even more unanswered questions as to how this proposed system will play out and what effects it will have on our community. First, it fails to address how health care providers will be impacted. Transferring their services to the public sector would cause the loss of one of our best employment sectors to other states and could deter any new providers from coming to New Mexico.
Short-staffed hospitals and clinics inevitably will cause inefficiencies, from long waits to unreliable care services. As a veteran, I already deal with this on a regular basis at the VA, where I wait for an excessive amount of time and often leave undiagnosed, I don’t wish this form of public health insurance upon anyone.
Finally, this proposal gives no insight into how the increased costs will ripple out into the greater economy. If many of us employers and workers are struggling to meet increased taxes and premium rates, can’t it be expected that our overall economy will suffer? In the midst of the pandemic, with all hospital beds already occupied and backlogged, is this really the best time to switch up the entire system with unforeseen impacts?
The anticipated costs for the Health Security Act continue to rise. It is now projected this proposal could lead to a $6 billion budget shortfall — not exactly what New Mexico needs right now. Creating more costs on businesses that are already struggling, for highly uncertain returns, will only cause more unnecessary distress on our fragile state economy. The reality is, the health care provided by a state-run system will be far less efficient than a privatized one, and will take decades to smoothen out and potentially break even.
Maybe one day, when this pandemic is over, the details have been ironed out and the economic projections locked in, we can give it a try. For now, it’s a no from me.