I sat through a lengthy hearing of the House Business and Industry Committee on Thursday, March 10th. Floor session ran late, so the hearing did not get going until after 7pm. No problem.
I was there to testify on separate legislation, but during the hearing HB 99 sponsored by Rep. Nora Espinoza came up for discussion. The bill is very simple. It would have allowed “anesthesiologist assistants” to work at hospitals outside of UNM Hospital here in Albuquerque. Currently, anesthesiologist assistants (AA’s) are limited to working at one hospital while Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA’s) can work anywhere. Needless to say, the CRNA’s were out in force to testify against the bill — in order to protect their market monopoly — while the AA’s also were out in force to gain more employment opportunities. The testimony and questions were emotional on both sides.
The issue is about economic freedom plain and simple. Hospitals would not be forced to hire AA’s if they don’t want to. If you are concerned about rising health care costs, it only makes sense to expand the number of people who can work in a particular field.
But, in what I can only describe as a shocking but not entirely surprising vote, all six Republicans on the committee supported the effort while all six Democrats opposed it. Thus, the bill died. Simply put, the Republicans supported economic freedom while the Democrats seemed to believe that unless the AA’s could “prove” that their services were absolutely necessary, they should not have the right to work in the specific field. This is backwards thinking and is a major problem for New Mexico. Voters need to understand that this attitude keeps business and economic activity from coming here and causes New Mexicans to remain dependent on government….unfortunately, that may be the very reason these legislators oppose economic freedom.