Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What’s the Next Step for Health Care

By Lydia Pendley

There is a small window of opportunity for New Mexico to take the next important step toward real health care reform that will lead to a rational, affordable system of health coverage and health care for all people living in the state.

There is still time in the 2008 legislative session for action, if our legislators have the political will to create the infrastructure that will lead to a sound, evidence-based plan for health care for all by the longer 2009 legislative session.

The proposal to create a New Mexico Health Care Authority is an appropriate and well-thought out next step. The Health Care Authority would be charged with conducting policy analysis and creating evidence-based information about health care financing, delivery systems, and overseeing and implementing health care reform in New Mexico.

It would incorporate the Health Policy Commission staff expertise and would build on the initial cost comparison of three health coverage models completed last summer by Mathematica. It would be charged to develop by January 2009 an action plan for the legislature to consider that would achieve affordable, quality health care for all people living in New Mexico.

A Health Care Authority will be an effective means to real health care reform if it is created in a way that ensures:

  • It is independent from control of any single branch of government;

  • It is independent from control of health care industry financial interests;

  • It has no presupposition that health insurance reform is an appropriate strategy for health care reform; and

  • It is charged, through legislation, to address health care reform comprehensively, including provision of comprehensive benefits, funding mechanisms that assure affordability and cost containment, portability of coverage, consolidation of actuarial pools, impact of federal programs/regulations, transparency of health costs, health care data reporting and collection.
The authority must have the ability to address not only health coverage but also cost containment and how the delivery system can be accessible and provide quality care.

There are a variety of health care reform-related proposals before the legislature, and the debate and negotiation is intense with legislators, the governor, state government officials and advocates having a variety of opinions and supporting different options for getting us closer to health care for all New Mexicans.

The Health Care for All Campaign supports the creation of the New Mexico Health Care Authority as the best option to making progress toward real health care reform. We need to start with an entity that can work on these issues over the long term, independent from political or health care industry pressure and can draw on needed expertise from all sectors to develop, with strong public input, the best health care reform plan giving all people living in New Mexico access to affordable, quality health care.

The people of New Mexico must let their voices be heard. The state must provide a way forward with health care reform, out of the morass of political interests, confused messages and claims, and untested strategies for reform. Reform will not happen unless we raise our voices and demand that the broken system be fixed.
Pendley is a member of the Health Care for All Campaign and the co-group leader of RESULTS-Santa Fe.

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