Evidence? What a Novel Concept!

One of the most disconcerting aspects of politics is the ascendancy of policies that are without merit. Examples of this dynamic on the federal level include the 2001 and 2003 federal tax cuts.

The so-called red light program is a local example of the very same dynamic. Remember, the red light program was ostensibly developed for public safety reasons, not to pad the city budget.

When policy is made by way of blind ideology, or to mask budgetary shortcomings, we the people eventually pay the price.

Nowhere is this truer than in the realm of health care.

For years, even decades, there have been discussions about how to cover more people, while simultaneously preventing insurance premiums from outpacing inflation. Needless to say, trends indicate an abject failure on both fronts.

I believe a primary reason for failing to extend coverage and keep costs manageable is the skyrocketing growth of money’s role in the political process. Perverse incentives that push medical students away from primary care work are a big problem. So is the fact that our system places a heavy emphasis on treating sickness, instead of promoting wellness. But, the influence of money on the political process, which creates conditions unfit for truly evidence-based discussions, is the real elephant in the room.

There must be an honest recognition that we are stuck in a quagmire. The existing process is simply not equipped to make evidence-based decisions regarding the overhaul of our health care system.

In order to develop sustainable solutions to the looming health care crisis, New Mexico must develop a process that will allow for evidence-based outcomes. The only option for such a process is the development of an independent health care authority.

Such an authority would have power vested in it by the legislature; it would have a budget and a full staff. Authority members would be heavily skewed towards patients and purchasers of health care. Thus, small business representatives would have a strong voice. A representative of the medical profession, a patient’s advocate and a retiree representative would also be part of the authority.

The insurance industry and the hospital industry would have an important role to play in the authority’s committee process. Committees would be structured as the primary conduit for gathering data-data that would play a key role in the final decisions of the authority.

To achieve evidence-based solutions, the state legislature should develop a process that is a step removed from the pressures of the status quo. Either during a special session later this summer, or during the 2009 legislative session, New Mexico must adopt an independent health care authority.

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