Commentary
7:00 am
Wed February 6, 2013

Op Ed: 70% Of NM Children Born Into Welfare

It was reported recently that 7 out of 10 live births in New Mexico are on Medicaid.

Astonishing, troubling…arguably, the most painful statistic of all for New Mexicans wondering whether their state truly is in a “death spiral” as some national media have reported.

Medicaid is a federal/state program designed in part to assist poor and relatively poor people. When it comes to births though, the fact is that it is only the young who have kids. No amount of wealthy retirees from more economically-free states can gloss over or bring up New Mexico’s 7 of 10 number. That is the scary thing. We talk about the next generation…this is the next generation of New Mexicans and they’re being born on welfare. To put the report another way, only 30 percent of New Mexico’s new parents can afford to pay for their own kids.

Gov. Martinez has agreed to increase the number of New Mexicans on Medicaid by accepting the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion. How many more New Mexicans will be dependant on government once that expansion is complete?

Some liberals wonder why conservatives and libertarians would trouble themselves over the high levels of government dependency found here in New Mexico. They only see dollars from taxpayers in other, richer states flowing into ours.

To the extent that welfare programs like Medicaid are temporary and set the stage for personal growth in education, employment, and personal responsibility, programs like Medicaid can be good.

Unfortunately, through a series of income penalties and phase-outs, Medicaid’s own rules disincentivize personal growth and lead to long-term dependency. Also, as an entitlement, Medicaid is fast-growing and consumes an ever-growing proportion federal and New Mexico budgets, crowding out education spending to name just one area. It has certainly not done much to make New Mexico more economically-prosperous.

All of this dependency and expense would be acceptable if Medicaid was proven to dramatically-improve health outcomes, but it’s not. It is an inefficient, one-size-fits-all system that discourages personal responsibility over health decisions and has resulted in mixed results in terms of health outcomes.

Rather than pushing more and more people into a broken Medicaid system, New Mexicans need to find ways to generate real economic prosperity and reduce unhealthy dependence on Medicaid.  

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