Albuquerque Journal Misguidedly Endorses Richardson Health Plan

Somewhat surprisingly given its usually reasonable editorial opinions, the Albuquerque Journal endorsed Governor Richardson’s health care plan. After all, as the paper concluded, “New Mexico’s condition can only get worse.”
We’ve heard this before. Richardson, in his state of the state address, repeatedly implied that health care in New Mexico cannot get worse than it is now. For starters, he said, “the status quo is unacceptable” and he went on to state “The most expensive choice is to do nothing.” While advocates of radical change in our health care system seem genuine in their conviction that things can get no worse, what are the facts?
Yes, New Mexico has a disproportionately high rate of uninsured with 400,000 out of 2 million (third highest in the nation). While it may seem plausible to state that health care could get no worse, how about for the rest of us? Richardson’s plan would force doctors — as a requirement for licensure — to accept whatever the state or insurance companies provide them in the way of payment. Clearly, both the state and insurance companies will have tremendous incentives to cut costs at doctors’ expense, thereby forcing doctors out of the state.
Obviously, if ever-greater numbers of doctors are forced out of New Mexico, we could end up with even less access to actual health care (as opposed to insurance) for the 1.6 million insured and the 400,000 uninsured alike. Before embarking on a massive government program that even supporters view as “imperfect,” we need to take a clear-eyed look at whether this supposed “solution” might actually make the current situation even worse.