Health insurance reform may benefit New Mexico economically

By Matthew Reichbach

The Medicaid expansion through the health care reform law will more than pay for itself in New Mexico according to analysts from New Mexico Voices for Children. Bill Jordan, Policy Director for New Mexico Voices for Children, and Kelly O’Donnell, an economist, gave a presentation to the Revenue Stabilization and Tax Policy interim committee Friday in Albuquerque explaining how New Mexico’s tax structure lends itself to taking advantage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA).

The two were questioned by the committee on how the tax structure would help and whether or not the health care act would actually help lower income residents receive health insurance.

There are two main revenue streams from the federal government that New Mexico will benefit from according to Jordan. One is the money coming in directly from Medicaid. The other money is the money that would come in the form of tax breaks for health insurance for low-income individuals.

“Those are the two main streams of funds and ways that people will get insurance,” Jordan told Clearly New Mexico following the hearing. “Both of those, Medicaid and the private insurance that is bought on the health care exchange, are taxed already and will be taxed with a 4 percent health insurance premium tax. And that plus our gross receipts tax and other minor taxes, like personal income tax, will generate enough tax revenue that we’ll have more than enough money to pay for our share of the Medicaid expansion that’s coming.”

HSD, advocacy groups at odds over Medicaid’s future

The hearing comes after the state’s Human Services Department has said a redesign of Medicaid is necessary because it is unsustainable as it is currently run. Many more people will be eligible for Medicaid in 2014 because of the PPACA. The federal government will cover the vast majority of the costs for the first few years, though this phases out and New Mexico will be on the hook for ten percent of the costs of the new Medicaid enrollees when it is completely phased out.

This summer, HSD Cabinet Secretary Sedonie Squire rejected a call for a public Medicaid Redesign Task Force. The call came from advocacy organizations, including New Mexico Voices for Children, which were not happy about the secrecy of the Medicaid redesign.

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New Mexico’s Empty Unemployment Rate Drop

By Matthew Reichbach

Despite headlines that the unemployment rate in New Mexico dropped to 6.8 percent in June, digging into the numbers shows the jobs situation in New Mexico remains dire.

The Santa Fe New Mexican noted that New Mexico ranked 50th in job growth. That’s dead last in the nation. Winthrop Quigley of the Albuquerque Journal said the numbers on jobs “are conflicting” and that “at least some employment data show New Mexico mired in a recession.” And the Santa Fe Reporter wrote that the numbers “don’t add up.”

Why?

Gerry Bradley, an economist and research director for New Mexico Voices for Children, told Clearly New Mexico that the unemployment rate largely reported in the media is “irrelevant” and that “no economist takes the unemployment rate as a good indicator of where the economy is going.”

Instead, Bradley suggests looking at the numbers from the Current Employment Statistics, or CES.

“The CES is a fairly large survey of employers in the state,” Bradley suggested in a phone interview with Clearly New Mexico. “At the same time that the Bureau of Labor Statistics is running this one program to get the unemployment rate, they’re running another survey that gives you employment data.”

Looking at this data paints a different picture from the unemployment rate that the media concentrates on.

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