Again, our state holds the bottom

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By Ralph Damiani

Once again, New Mexico was at the bottom of a national list.

This time we ranked worst in the country for the percentage of residents who are covered by health insurance through their employers, according to a new report from the Economic Policy Institute.

The Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan think tank found that 50.7 percent of New Mexico’s population less than 65 years old was covered by employer-sponsored health insurance in 2006-2007 and 59.1 percent of all workers were insured by their employers over the same period, the 22-page report released last week found.

Nationwide, nearly 63 percent of the population under 65 years old was covered by employer-sponsored health insurance and almost 71 percent of all workers were insured by their employers for the same period.

Public programs like Medicaid and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program help children and low-income adults, Eric Griego, executive director at New Mexico Voices for Children, told the Associated Press, “there’s little out there for middle-income workers who can’t get or afford coverage through work.

“As the report makes clear, we need a universal program that will make coverage more affordable for all New Mexicans,” he said in a statement.

The report showed that health insurance coverage provided by employers in New Mexico declined slightly since 2000-2001, but the fall was not statistically significant.

Texas (53.5 percent) and Mississippi (53.7 percent) ranked second and third worst respectively among all the states for employer-sponsored insurance coverage for people under 65 years of age.

Texas ranked second worst at almost 63 percent and Louisiana third at 63.6 percent in the country for the percentage of all workers insured by their employers.

New Mexico also ranked second worst in the nation behind Mississippi for the percentage of children – 46.3 percent – who were insured by an employer-sponsored health plan in 2006-2007. Nationwide, 59.6 percent of children had coverage through an employer for the same period.

Besides New Mexico and Mississippi, the report said less than half the children in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana were covered by employer-provided health insurance.

The report also found disparities in employer-provided health coverage based on race. Employer-sponsored coverage for Hispanics was much lower than for whites.

In 2007, 41.4 percent of Hispanics under age 65 had health insurance through their employers, compared with nearly 71 percent of whites.

The Economic Policy Institute is focused on improving conditions for workers. The report’s author, Elise Gould, wrote that many Americans are falling through the growing gulf between employer-sponsored health insurance coverage and government-run health programs.

“Between 2006 and 2007, public insurance was the only reason that more Americans did not become uninsured as coverage through work fell,” the report said.

With the economic downturn and predictions of unemployment into 2009, further losses in employer-sponsored health coverage are expected, it said.


Sadly, I have been pointing out for some time that we are overspending at the state level. And if energy prices ever fall, we would be in deep trouble as we have not been counting on high oil income, we have  been spending it before it comes in.

Well, Gov. Richardson was finally forced to respond by outlining a plan to immediately freeze certain spending and reduce operating expenses by 5 percent.

Overall, the governor’s plan, if adopted by other state officials and the Legislature, could save as much as $440 million.

His plan includes an effort to identify $200-$300 million in stalled capital projects and cut them.

The governor said he will work with the Legislature to cut and shore up state revenue without raising taxes, tapping cash reserves or cutting services to New Mexicans.

 He directed his secretaries to move forward on his plan to curb spending after receiving confirmation Friday that revenue for the ongoing 2009 budget year will be about $344 million lower than previous estimates, and $200 million less than budgeted expenditures.

He said that the state will make every effort to ensure that funding for education stays in the classroom; however public schools and higher education institutions are advised to develop a strategy for reducing next year’s budget.

We sincerely wish him luck. He – and all of us praying for no tax increase – wish him well.