Repeatedly in defense of his marquee legislative accomplishment, President Obama claimed that “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.”
I can’t read a man’s heart, so I can’t say with confidence whether Mr. Obama was simply lying or, like then-Speaker Pelosi, he actually hadn’t read the bill, but I can say that my family and I recently learned that under ObamaCare, you can’t keep your health care plan no matter how much you like it.
By way of background, I have had a “individual” health savings account through Blue Cross since I started with Rio Grande Foundation in early 2006. Health savings accounts are the most market oriented of health insurance plans because they provide relatively “bare-bones” insurance policies that are supplemented by pre-tax savings accounts designed to pay for day-to-day health care expenses.
Over the years I have added my wife and two young daughters to the plan. My family’s monthly premium is approximately $330 per month. Yes, we are relatively healthy, but we have used the plan and the thousands of dollars of health savings that we have built up for health care costs which included two ER visits during 2014 alone. We have also used those savings for chiropractor visits and physical therapy.
My point is that we were very happy with our insurance plan. It fit with my ideological desire to have something resembling a free market health policy that put me, not my employer or insurance company in charge of my health care decisions. It was also reasonably priced for my family and my non-profit employer.
While my plan was “grandfathered” for a year, I knew that it was scheduled to be canceled under ObamaCare at the end of 2014. I recently received a letter from Blue Cross to that effect.
I can’t even begin looking for a new insurance policy until mid-November. According to media reports, a total of 30,000 New Mexicans are in the same proverbial boat.
The good news is that more so than a vast majority of New Mexicans, I, my wife, and our kids are healthy and I know my way around government rules and regulations and, hopefully, will be able to figure out a decent new plan. The bad news is that I run a non-profit that can’t afford a massive increase in health insurance rates. I’d be “thrilled” if my monthly policy merely doubles in price under ObamaCare, but I have no way to know that until at least mid-November.
And this is the real issue with ObamaCare and so much of what government does both here in New Mexico and in Washington. Rather than setting basic rules and regulations under which all are treated equally and individuals are free to make their own choices, politicians seem to think they know more about what is good for us than we do.
ObamaCare is just the tip of the iceberg which happens to be impacting my family in a very real and personal way. Energy regulations and the blind push for politically-correct energy sources impacts our energy costs. Regulations on everyone from hair-stylists to ride-share firms presume that average people (you) are simply too stupid and ill-informed to make the “right” choice and that you need big-government there to tell you what to do.
And don’t even get me started on education which is a government-run monopoly with school choices dependant on where you live.
The Rio Grande Foundation is a think tank. We deal a lot in numbers, data, and abstract policy issues. But in this case bad policies in Washington have hit me and my family by interfering with our health care. It only makes me wish to work harder to bring more freedom to New Mexicans and ultimately our nation.
This November, I hope New Mexicans will vote for candidates that respect individuals and their choices, not the whims of bureaucrats and politicians.
Paul Gessing is the President of New Mexico’s Rio Grande Foundation. The Rio Grande Foundation is an independent, non-partisan, tax-exempt research and educational organization dedicated to promoting prosperity for New Mexico based on principles of limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility
By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
JEMEZ RANGER DISTRICT — The fencing is up. The next question is whether the fighting is over.
In reaction to the listing of the meadow jumping mouse as an endangered species, the U.S. Forest Service just completed erecting fences along a creek in New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains. It has become ground zero in a battle between ranchers who have grazed cattle in the meadow for generations and environmentalists who insist the mouse’s habitat must be zealously protected.
“I’m encouraged,” said Bryan Bird, program director at WildEarth Guardians. “I think it’s the right thing to do. I think it’s the reasonable thing to do.”
“We’re not crazy about it but, for now, we can live with it,” said Mike Lucero, a rancher with the San Diego Cattleman’s Association, pointing out his family’s cattle will have access to water above and below the area that’s fenced off. “We can manage around it because we can still get to water.”
But that doesn’t mean the mouse war — that started when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in June listed the tiny rodent as endangered — is over.
First, the fencing is listed as temporary.
Second, each side has filed lawsuits against the Forest Service.
The ranchers have filed their own suit, asserting they have taken good care of the creek, called the Rio Cebolla, and that the federal government has overreached and is not following its own environmental policies.
New Mexico Watchdog drove to the area Monday to look at the 4-foot-high barbed wire fencing, completed by the Forest Service just before the cows come down for their annual fall grazing.
The fencing extends about 10 feet to 30 feet from the edges of the creek with signs posted by the Forest Service.
Some 222 acres are closed — including 118 acres of fencing along the Rio Cebolla — near Fenton Lake in northern New Mexico on land often used for hiking, fishing and camping.
Ranching families like Lucero’s own federal grazing permits and have run their cattle along the creek though the old New Mexico land grant system that predates the U.S. Forest Service.
Lucero said the cattle graze and drink in the area one to two weeks in the spring and four to five weeks in the fall after the herd is cut.
A little more than a week ago, a judge turned down the ranchers’ attempts for a temporary restraining order to stop the fencing, but the lawsuit is still going forward in U.S. District Court.
“We’re not going to let it drop as long as the threat continues,” Lucero said.
Environmentalists filed their own lawsuit against the Forest Service, insisting the habitat for the mouse has badly degraded in the three states — New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado — it inhabits.
“It’s important to all of us,” Bird said. “These resources are ours and we need to make sure we’re protecting for them for everybody’s enjoyment, not just the livestock industry … It may seem like a little mouse to people but it’s a big indicator.”
In many ways, the Forest Service is caught in the middle — criticized by environmental groups for what they see as foot-dragging and by ranchers who claim the agency too often sides with environmentalists for fear of litigation.
“That’s always kind of my litmus test,” said Garrett VeneKlasen, executive director of the New Mexico Wildlife Federation, an organization based in Albuquerque that advocates for hunting, fishing and the outdoors. “If the people on the far sides are pissed off, it means the Forest Service did its job.”
Documents released by the agency say the fencing order is a “short-term special closure” that will stay in effect for one year, “until (an) environmental analysis is conducted ” and “consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can be concluded.” Click here to read the Forest Service documents.
“We need more studies on the area and will work in consultation with the Fish and Wildlife, as well as the permittees, to find a solution that protects the mouse,” Forest Service spokeswoman Donna Nemeth told the Albuquerque Journal. “In the meantime, we have to take protective measures to protect the habitat.”
In addition, the Forest Service has closed off a portion of the San Antonio Campground, a popular recreation spot a few miles from the Rio Cebolla, to protect the mouse’s habitat.