Enrollment plunges in New Mexico’s subsidize health exchange

December 21, 2018

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Enrollment in New Mexico’s subsidized health exchange for next year fell by more than 10 percent during a recently concluded sign-up period even as premium prices have stabilized, state insurance officials said.

Office of the Superintendent of Insurance spokeswoman Heather Widler on Thursday said that 45,232 people signed up or re-enrolled in the state’s federally subsidized marketplace for health insurance during the 45-day period enrollment period ending Dec. 15. Last year, 50,539 people enrolled.

Average prices for purchasing health insurance on the New Mexico exchange declined by about 1 percent for 2019 from the current year after several years of sustained premium increases.

President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress have repealed the penalty for people going uninsured starting in 2019, generating concerns that the number of uninsured people in the U.S. will rise significantly.

Cheryl Gardner, CEO of New Mexico’s nonprofit state-based health insurance exchange, said there are preliminary indications that eliminating the federal requirement may have reduced local enrollment numbers. She said it appears some states that are implementing their own mandates for insurance coverage have maintained greater enrollment.

Rising rates of employment in New Mexico mean more people are likely to be eligible for affordable insurance coverage through employers, she added.

“Any time the economy is stronger, our numbers will naturally go down,” she said.

Figures released this week by the federal government show a dip in nationwide enrolled policy holders in Affordable Care Act coverage next year through HealthCare.gov to 8.5 million in 2019 from 8.8 million currently. The preliminary numbers from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services will be revised next year.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration is pushing forward with short-term, limited-duration insurance and association health plans as an alternative to comprehensive but more costly policies under the Affordable Care Act. Those options are not yet available New Mexico consumers.

New Mexico Insurance Superintendent John Franchini offered reassurances this week that health insurance plans for 2019 will not be affected by a federal district court ruling that the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, as legal appeals run their course.

“In anticipation of such a ruling, my office has also been working on legislative and regulatory options that would provide state-level protections and guidance so New Mexicans are insulated from future legal battles” over the Affordable Care Act, Franchini said in a news release.

About 250,000 New Mexico residents are eligible for exchange coverage under the Affordable Care Act because they do not get health care through employers, Medicaid or other sources.

New Mexico’s expansion of Medicaid in 2014 helped cut in half the number of uninsured residents.

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