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192,000 in N.M. eligible for health insurance subsidy

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About 192,000 New Mexicans will be eligible for subsidies to help pay for health insurance next year, according to a report an advocacy group released Wednesday.

The report from Families USA, a Washington-based consumer health organization, said the federal tax credits that take effect Jan. 1 will make health insurance affordable for many working families and young people.

“The tax credit subsidies are a game-changer,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said in a conference call. “They will make health coverage affordable to huge numbers of families that would otherwise be priced out of the health coverage and care they need.”

Barbara Webber, executive director of Health Action New Mexico, said New Mexico is one of the states with the most to gain from the new health care laws because of its high numbers of uninsured and underinsured residents.

“Many of our families have gone for generations without health care coverage,” she said.

The subsidized rates will be available to New Mexicans who purchase health insurance through a new state exchange being implemented as part of the national health care overhaul. In addition to creating the exchange, Gov. Susana Martinez has signed legislation expanding Medicaid programs to cover people earning up to 138 percent of the poverty level.

Beginning Oct. 1, people who are uninsured can begin signing up for the subsidies, which will be granted on a sliding scale, with the poorest people getting the largest credits. The subsidies will be available for people earning up to four times the federal poverty level, or $46,000 for a single person and $92,000 for a family of four.

Although the subsidies are being made in the form of tax credits, the federal government will make the payments directly to the insurance companies so that families pay a reduced rate for insurance, rather than having to wait for rebates.

The report, “Help Is at Hand: New Health Insurance Tax Credits in New Mexico,” found that more than half of those eligible are Hispanic, about 15 percent are American Indian, and about 29 percent white and non-Hispanic.

It also says an overwhelming number of those who will be eligible for tax credits will be in working families, and that New Mexicans between the ages of 18 and 34 make up a large proportion of those who will be eligible for assistance.
— This article appeared on page C2 of the Albuquerque Journal

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