Health

Rate decreases coming to New Mexico health exchange

By MORGAN LEE
Posted: Sep. 5, 2018 7:00 am Updated: Sep. 5, 2018 11:45 am

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) Average rates for purchasing health insurance will decrease by about 1 percent on New Mexico's subsidized health care exchange in 2019, in a shift from choices a year ago.

State insurance regulators say changes in rates for consumer premiums on the federally subsidized marketplace range from a decrease of 24 percent to an increase of 6 percent.

"After years of seeing increases to individual plan costs you might actually see some relief," said Health Widler, a spokeswoman for the New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance. "A majority of people who participate in the exchange are going to see a small relief."

Average premium increases on the exchange set records at the start of 2018, partly as a result of President Donald Trump's decision to pull the plug on federal payments that reimburse insurers for reduced copays and deductibles they're required to provide to people of modest means. In New Mexico, premiums for mid-level insurance coverage in 2018 shot up by more than 35 percent.

Widler said people of limited economic means continue to have access to low- or zero-premium insurance plans including "gold" plans with comprehensive benefits and relatively low deductibles.

Nearly 49,000 residents are enrolled through the state's health exchange portal, known as beWellnm. About 80 percent of those people receive subsidies. New Mexico depends heavily on Medicaid.

Marlene Baca, CEO of the nonprofit on-exchange insurance provider New Mexico Health Connections, said Wednesday that the cooperative has focused on its management of medical costs in the wake of recent regulatory upheaval.

Health Connections' average rates on the exchange are decreasing by 2 percent in 2019.

"As the health plan works with members as well as the providers, we're able to make an impact on the medical and pharmaceutical costs," she said Wednesday.

Rates will decreased by an average of 6 percent under Molina Health Care, remain unchanged under Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and increase by 4 percent under Christus Health Plan, according to state insurance regulators.

The state's largest health care provider, Presbyterian Healthcare Services, withdrew its proposal to join the exchange in 2019.

A 45-day enrollment period for 2019 health care plans begins on Nov. 1. New Mexico insurance regulators provide a comprehensive comparison tool for health plans at nmhealthratereview.com that also screens for Medicaid eligibility.

President Donald Trump and the GOP-led Congress have repealed the penalty for people going uninsured, starting in 2019. Many experts believe that may increase the number of uninsured nationwide.

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

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