Governor Bill Richardson blew it. Yesterday, was the Association of Commerce and Industry’s (ACI) Business Day at Santa Fe. ACI is the statewide chamber of commerce and industry.
Business Day actually started on Monday night with an event held that included almost all of the chambers from around the state. Great two days, but Governor Richardson was noticeably absent.
ACI – at the behest of its members – has not taken a position endorsing the Governor’s unfundable universal health care plan. In fact, ACI has taken a stance against putting the burden of universal health care on businesses.
ACI supports individual mandates of coverage, and we support incentives for employers to provide that coverage. We support a private/public partnership that reduces the overall cost of care, increases access to quality care, and improves the method of financing the health care system. We support aggressive outreach to our uninsured who currently qualifies for one of the many public programs available.
Our concerns are that the plan ties health coverage to employment-we need healthy New Mexicans, not just a healthy workforce. We are also concerned that New Mexico does not have the economies of scale to implement such a plan, and the costs are still unknown. How can New Mexico afford this in addition to the other initiatives we already have underway? And while we understand that the cost of doing nothing is significant, we are not convinced that the cost of this Plan is less.
The fact that the Health Care Authority will be able to set the rates that employers pay without any legislative oversight is concerning. It is true that the most an employer will pay in the first year is $500, but as the bill reads, the Authority can increase that every year hereafter. The bill defines a full-time employee as one who works 20 hours or more, and even if the employee only works for 90 days that year, the employer is responsible for paying into the fund for that person even if they are no longer employed at the time of filing.
We are also concerned that the Bill does not guarantee that even one additional person will be covered. Employees can opt out of coverage with no individual penalty, but the employer cannot opt out of paying into the fund.
The reporting requirement for our employers increases dramatically-the paperwork for the required 125 pre-tax plan that must be offered is significant, as is the fact that all employers “shall be required to report to the authority such data about health coverage, services delivered, incidents and infection rates and outcomes achieved in a format required or approved by the authority. . .” Many of our smaller employers fear they will need an additional staff person just to support the new requirements.
ACI does not believe that employment is a requirement for access to quality health care, nor do we believe that we should penalize New Mexicans for providing jobs.
Apparently, the Governor was not too happy about this, and decided to show his displeasure by canceling his schedule appearance at the ACI event. Mind you, the House and Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle and the Lt. Governor, as well as many of the the legislators saw fit to greet and address their business constituents from across the state, but NOT Governor Bill Richardson.
Like a spoiled child, the Governor turned his back on the very business community that had widely supported his run for presidency and most of his other misguided initiatives since he was elected to office. Mind you, the guy is still asking New Mexicans to pay for his gallavanting across the nation.
Had Governor Richardson attended, he would have heard Representative Tom Taylor (R-Farmington), the House Minority Leader recognize the fact that:
Every single solitary dime that [the legislature and the governor] spends comes from business.
Someone should remind Governor Richardson that elected leaders are put into office to do the will of the people. In our Democracy, people are not required to bend and conform to the will of the elected officials.
Now, it should be noted that the Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce has put out the following statement:
Earlier today the Chamber’s Board of Directors voted unanimously to support the Health Care New Mexico Solutions Act. The discussion was spirited as you would expect for a issue with such huge ramifications for business and the state as a whole.
I understand from more than one board member that this decision WAS NOT unanimous. However, the Governor is rewarding the Chamber’s kowtowing and blatant disregard of their members interest by attending a luncheon.
I, for one, will not pay for to attend that luncheon, and I seriously doubt that I will renew my membership to the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce until they show some semblance of a backbone when it comes to business issues and facing down the Governor.
As to the Governor, he owes the members of the business community that trekked up to Santa Fe from across the state a sincere apology.