It’s time we did the math on Medicaid because the concerns expressed by some of my colleagues in the Legislature about the “runaway” costs of the health care program just don’t add up.
Here are the numbers:
For the next fiscal year, the Albuquerque Journal reports, the Department of Health and Human Services will spend $976.9 million to provide Medicaid services to an expected 919,391 New Mexicans. Those are big numbers, sure, but a closer look shows that Medicaid expenses make sense.
In fact, when the total annual cost of the program is divided by the number of beneficiaries, it turns out that the state is fully insuring and providing quality health care for well over one-third of the population at a cost of just $1,063 per year per person.
That’s not a “runaway train,” that’s a cost-effective investment in New Mexico families.
The real problem we need to be talking about is the fact that 919,391 people out of the state’s population of 2.08 million qualify for Medicaid services, which primarily serve low-income families, individuals and children.
The problem is not Medicaid. The problem is an economy that leaves so many of our citizens without the means to care for themselves and their families.
The fact is that an investment in Medicaid will not only provide better health care for New Mexico families, but it will also provide short-term and long-term solutions to the poverty that plagues our state.
First, healthy workers are productive workers, earning good wages for themselves and solid profits for their employers. By helping everyone stay healthy and ready to work, we can keep more New Mexicans on the job right now and breathe new energy into our economy.
Secondly, the health care that Medicaid provides will have two positive, long-term outcomes for our economy.
To begin, healthy children do better in school. It’s that simple. And the better kids do in school, the more likely they are to stay in school and get prepared for the high-end, high-paying jobs that will grow our economy in the future.
Further, an overwhelming number of those jobs will be in the health care sector. As we provide more care to more New Mexicans, we are actually creating jobs. Health care is the fastest growing sector of the New Mexico economy.
In preparing the state’s budget, as in running a business, it’s not enough to take a cursory look at costs. It is incumbent upon us as legislators to look into the data we are provided and make informed decisions that make sense for our state.
Don’t let the costs of Medicaid be a distraction from the real “runaway train” heading our way. Poverty is the real threat that we face and that we need to stop in its tracks.