Obama and New Mexico’s Health Care Authority

It is clear Obama is going to move aggressively on health care reform, including it as a cornerstone of his economic recovery package. Kevin Sack, in his op-ed entitled, “Necessary Medicine?” in this Sunday’s New York Times, cites Obama himself:

To broaden support for his plan — whatever it ends up being — he [Obama] insisted last week that systematic improvements in health care would be essential to any lasting economic recovery.

“It’s not something that we can sort of put off because we’re in an emergency,” he said. “This is part of the emergency.”

Mr. Obama said his health plan would be “intimately woven into” his administration’s economic blueprint. And he directly confronted those who might ask how the country could afford a major expansion of health coverage in times of shrinking revenues and burgeoning deficits. “I ask a different question,” Mr. Obama said. “I ask how can we afford not to?”

The state of health care in New Mexico is, to paraphrase Civil Rights organizer Bob Moses, like a boat in the ocean with a hole in it. You have to stay afloat to fix the boat, and fix the boat to stay afloat.

Some legislators will want to move immediately on additional reforms to New Mexico’s health care system to address the urgent needs of New Mexicans facing ever-increasing costs. Other legislators will say we need to wait to see what the feds are going to do before we do anything too drastic.

Both sides lend more credence to the creation of an independent health care authority. Whether New Mexico wants to act first or whether we want to wait for the feds, we need an independent group of experts to formulate strong, thoughtful recommendations on systemic changes and the complicated interface between state and federal health care financing.

As Obama says, “how can we afford not to?” The health care system for New Mexicans is broken with no cost controls, a shortage of medical professionals and incentives for higher cost procedures rather than on a healthy population. Legislators cannot afford to wait, either for true reform or for the feds to act. An Independent Health Care Authority can move us forward with data and outcome driven solutions to our health care illness.

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