By TYLER TAYLOR, MD
U.S. healthcare costs have been rising faster than consumer inflation for decades.
Cost slow-downs, like after the 2008 financial meltdown, or when HMOs rationed care in the ‘90s, have been brief. Mainstream “fixes” keep failing. Today, in spite of the vast amount we spend, America’s health system still doesn’t cover one out of 10 citizens.
Frustrated with Federal inaction, several states, including Maryland and California, have been trying to find an affordable way forward, while also assuring that all their residents have good medical coverage. But guess who is leading the pack with a solid plan to do just that? New Mexico!
Conceived in 1993, our plan has been steadily tweaked and improved since. Called the New Mexico Health Security Plan (HSP), it is now supported by over 200 organizations, 34 cities/counties, and 160+ doctors. As a family physician, I see why this approach has become highly popular. It smartly addresses a multitude of frustrations and worries that providers and patients have.
- One out of 4 New Mexicans already has healthcare coverage through a Federal plan. This new plan would cover the other 3 out of 4 residents, managed by a state-appointed but independent Commission. Thus everyone who currently has private insurance, no insurance, or Medicaid would be automatically enrolled.
- Coverage benefits would be uniform, and the same as NM state employees now get – a very comprehensive package.
- This insurance would be paid for with sliding-scale premiums, not through increased taxes.
- There would be no networks in the HSP, allowing full freedom of choice in picking doctors, hospitals, labs, etc. (including out-of-state providers). But our current healthcare delivery system would not be changed.
- The plan holds down costs by eliminating many of the middlemen, advertisements, and stockholders of insurance companies. By negotiating for bulk prices for medicines, it would substantially reduce their costs. The last detailed analysis, in 2007, showed lower costs of about $800 million/year by Year 5, compared to the status quo. Even higher savings are now likely.
- Like a co-op, the 15 members of the Commission would be required to have the HSP as their own insurance, to represent consumers/providers from all areas of the state, and to have open books and meetings.
- Having this more affordable, predictable system would give patients more peace of mind, and remove many of the aggravations providers experience every workday.
For the HSP to exist, the Legislature and Governor must first authorize another full financial analysis. The NM House voted for this last year, but it died in the Senate. Both houses will reconsider it in January. If, in 1-2 years, our state leaders are convinced this plan saves money, and they vote to proceed, the HSP will be carefully built.
So, New Mexico could soon have a much simpler and more affordable health insurance system.
Imagine the morale boost in us being the first to say “Getting fed-up with D.C. gridlock, we created for ourselves a far better system”. Every other state would definitely take note!
Our County Council will soon consider a resolution of support for the HSP bill. Will we become the 35th NM county/city to pass this? I fervently hope so.
These ideas, and the go-slow approach, should be very acceptable to both Republicans and Democrats.
If you believe the Health Security Plan sounds very positive, please urge our County Councilors to support it in coming weeks. For more Plan details, check-out nmhealthsecurity.org.