Pubdate: Fri, 10 Jun 2016
Source: Albuquerque Journal (NM)
Copyright: 2016 Albuquerque Journal
Author: Duke Rodriguez
Note: Duke Rodriguez Former Secretary, New Mexico Human Services 
Department; Principal, Ultra Health LLC


New Mexico's Program Is a Model of Efficiency but Still Needs More 
Money to Function

New Mexico is experiencing vast budget shortages stemming from a 
historically limited private-sector economy and lower than expected 
oil and gas revenues. Rarely, if ever, have the state coffers been 
sufficient to fully fund the programmatic needs for improved 
education, a stronger justice system and expanded but needed health care.

Of the three largest budget demands, only one is both a true economic 
and social positive multiplier to the improved well-being of the 
state's individual residents and the overall statewide economy: 
Medicaid. New Mexico is in an envious position of being able to 
obtain $3 in a federal match for each $1 the state provides.

Likewise, every single dollar cut from the Medicaid program results 
in a combined $4 less being released into our communities for 
hospitals, caregivers, medicines, health care workers, behavioral 
health services and those who often care for our most vulnerable 
populations: single parents, children, working poor, chronically ill, 
the aged or disabled.

Many will argue wrongfully the program is burdened with providing 
indigent care to undocumented workers and their families. Totally 
untrue; the program is representative of our children, our neighbors, 
our family members and even some of our fellow workers.

Measured against most metrics, our Medicaid program is a model of 
efficiency. No Medicaid program is perfect, but our model is 
reflective of a vibrant medical community, which is competitive, 
innovative and delivers the greatest bundle of health care services 
with an already underfunded program in relationship to the demand. If 
more dollars were made available, monies should be invested in 
expanding health care in our rural communities, increasing behavioral 
health funding, supporting more care for the developmentally disabled 
and ensuring our long-term care providers can continue to fulfill 
their mission. Cutting Medicaid funding to our already frail delivery 
system like hospitals means making access and affordability much 
harder for populations that need health care the most.

As previously reported, health care makes up about one quarter of the 
northern New Mexico job market. Making cuts to this sector is 
disastrous to our communities.

There is not a Medicaid spending problem in New Mexico; there is a 
revenue shortfall problem in New Mexico.

Very few alternatives to harmful budget cuts have been considered 
thus far. Health care advocacy groups have suggested increasing taxes 
on tobacco and alcohol to bridge the gap; they have not, however, 
proposed a percentage of increase or investigated how much of a dent 
that increase would make in the budget shortage. At this point, it is 
clear the gap won't be closed without slashing major programs or 
finding an entirely new source of revenue. So where is the state to turn?

Enter the argument for the legalization of the social use of cannabis 
on a statewide level.

Conservative estimates based on the social use of cannabis and 
increased sales taxes in neighboring states indicate that recurring 
revenues could be in the range of $75 million to $100 million annually.

The social use of cannabis becomes an incredibly viable option for 
dependable state revenues, and $100 million in revenue could generate 
a federal match of up to $300 million if fully directed to Medicaid.

New Mexico is considering extensive budget cuts and changes in areas 
where its citizens need funding the most. Not considering a revenue 
source which could add $400 million to our economy and meets the 
criteria of good health is not fiscally or socially responsible.

Fortunately, in New Mexico we have made great strides in expanding 
medical cannabis to treat the physical and mental well-being of our 
people. The time has come to also address the social well-being of our people.

We need to remove cannabis from the unregulated illegal market. 
Similar to alcohol and tobacco, we should legalize, regulate and tax 
the adult social use of cannabis in New Mexico. Salud New Mexico, 
approve the social use of cannabis and adequately fund Medicaid.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom