Gov. Susana Martinez should oppose efforts by the state legislature to establish a health insurance exchange because it will turn the state into little more than a contractor to the federal government in implementing the new health overhaul law.
Further, the state should return the $1 million in federal funds it has taken to study creation of an exchange. New Mexico must retain its independence so it can do what is right for the citizens of the Land of Enchantment.
Yes, there are problems with cost and access to health care in New Mexico, and small businesses are especially desperate for relief. But the new health law will only add to their burdens. Under federal law, any business with more than 50 full-time employees will be required to provide health insurance which is likely to be more comprehensive, and expensive, than most can afford today.
Those purchasing insurance in the individual market are going to be hit especially hard. The Congressional Budget Office has said that costs for a family of four in this market are likely to be $2,100 a year higher than they would have been had the law not passed.
And under the new federal health law, all citizens will be required to purchase government-mandated insurance or pay a fine.
The exchanges are the vehicle that the federal government hopes the states will establish so it can close the loop on federal regulation of health insurance. By taking the exchange money from Washington, states give up their autonomy and authority to do what is right for their own citizens. They must follow Washington’s rules.
Small businesses and individuals would be better off if the state were to instead set up a web portal that would allow people to buy coverage on a pre-tax basis and that would allow health insurance resources to be pooled together. If a husband and wife are both working for different companies, both employers could contribute money toward their purchase of a single family policy. Utah accomplished this and hired just two people to get it done. But that is where the authority should end.
The president adopted the name of the Utah Health Exchange but none of its flexibility. To be clear New Mexico isn’t turning itself into a subject of Washington, it could call its purchasing portal a “Health Freedom Gateway.” It should have no regulatory authority, and people should be able to purchase less-expensive, mandate-light policies, if they choose.
The key is individual ownership of health. This will go a long way toward reducing the problem of pre-existing conditions. If people have policies that they can own and take with them as they move from job to job or city to city, they will have continuity of insurance so the insurance will be there when they need it.
New Mexico should do what is right for its own citizens. Don’t create a Washington-designed exchange and don’t accept federal exchange funds.
If enough states resist – as many are – the federal government will be compelled to find a better way to provide financial assistance to the uninsured to help them in purchasing coverage without the heavy, expensive, and inflexible weight of federal control over New Mexico’s health insurance market.
Posted on Errors of Enchantment, April 4, 2011.