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Policy: Health Care

Health care leads San Juan County to consider cuts

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News,Business,Health Care

FARMINGTON, N.M. (AP) — A new law that calls for New Mexico counties to funnel more gross receipts taxes to a fund that helps hospitals pay for uninsured care is forcing San Juan County to consider cutting services and raising taxes.

The county has already frozen or abolished dozens of positions in recent years, and County Executive Officer Kim Carpenter tells The Daily Times (http://bit.ly/1ChvOUh ) more reductions could be possible as a result of the legislation.

Carpenter said San Juan County is close to having 10 percent fewer workers than in 2009. The county's public works, and parks and facilities departments have seen the most reductions, but more than a dozen other departments have also been affected.

"We're talking a lot of jobs," he said.

Employees are the county's greatest expense. Freezing or abolishing jobs eliminates paying wages, benefits, vacation and sick leave, he said.

If more cuts need to be made, however, residents could see their quality of life affected, Carpenter said.

Under the legislation, the Safety Net Care Pool was created to help New Mexico hospitals pay for uninsured care. The measure requires counties to pay one-twelfth of 1 percent of their gross receipts taxes into the pool.

The county's payment is about $3 million. In addition to other obligations, the county's health care assistance program would experience about a $6 million deficit in fiscal year 2016, according to county documents.

To reduce this deficit, commissioners have been deciding whether to cut services, lay off employees, raise taxes or find a mix of those options. Commissioners are scheduled to consider three tax increases at their meeting Tuesday.

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Information from: The Daily Times, http://www.daily-times.com

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