Sunday, September 20, 2009

Water and Health Care: A Parallel

From the time I arrived on Albuquerque, New Mexico's West Side some 14 years ago, I was impressed with New Mexico Utilities, the private enterprise that supplied our water. They did a superior job of keeping our water clean, fresh tasting and odor-free. They sent out periodic questionnaires to discover our concerns and/or grievances. One of their employees went from house to house to check on customer satisfaction. Their personnel were courteous and helpful. Because of my water-conserving methods, my bill was lowered.

About a year ago, the Albuquerque Water Authority unilaterally decided to take over New Mexico Utilities. Westsiders were dismayed. We had not been consulted. The West Side Coalition held a town hall in order to find out what we thought. Both New Mexico Utilities and the city were invited to present its case. The meeting hall was quite full. At least 200 residents attended. We listened to arguments and looked at charts and graphs for about 2 hours.

Afterwards a vote was taken whether to keep New Mexico Utilities or to switch to government management of water. Ninety-eight percent of the citizens expressed their satisfaction with New Mexico Utilities and voted to keep them.

The Water Authority ignored us. They forced New Mexico Utilities out of business. The result was a lowering in the quality of our water and a raising of rates that increased every month. Now and then the water has an unpleasant odor. It's expected to get worse.

Although I had not changed the amount of water I used and continued to use the same water-conserving methods, the Water Authority increased my bill by $8. I called the Water Authority to ask why. They claimed I was using more water. They were not helpful. They were rude and snippy.

There is nothing I can do. They are in complete control of our water. They are a monopoly. They are competing with no one for customer satisfaction.

There’s a parallel here that most readers will grasp. When government forces out private enterprise, the quality of product and/or service goes down, the price goes up. You can bet that the same thing will happen should we allow government to take over the health care industry.

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