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NM health care exchange running smoothly one week in

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aexhcnCopyright © 2013 Albuquerque Journal

The first full week of operation saw 524 New Mexico employers use the state health insurance exchange to sign up 1,074 employees to receive coverage, according to Mike Nuñez, the exchange’s interim CEO.

The state exchange websites – www.bewellnm.com and www.seguroquesinm.com – have had 37,000 unique visitors since the exchange opened for business Oct. 1. The state exchange will offer only business insurance until 2015, but its websites are portals that allow individuals to reach the federal exchange, where they can shop for insurance.

Employers choose the level of coverage they will offer their staff and designate the amount of the premium they will pay. Then employees, beginning Nov. 1, will choose from the policies, offered by five different companies, that meet the employer’s criteria.

Nuñez said the average of about two employees per business signed up is consistent with his experience running the state’s Health Insurance Alliance, which is an insurance industry program designed to provide affordable insurance to very small businesses. Based on HIA experience, the state exchange expects up to 2,000 businesses to register.

About 270 of the state’s 350 to 400 licensed insurance agents also have registered on the state exchange. Businesses can choose an insurance agent, if they wish, to help them purchase insurance on the exchange.

Individual sign-ups on the federal exchange continue to be difficult, Nuñez said. A very large volume of Internet traffic has slowed access to the federal website.

“I’ve tried to go in there a number of times, just to see if I could get through,” Nuñez said. “I finally gave up. I know less than a handful of people who’ve gotten through to enroll.”

Federal officials have told him that they expect it to be resolved soon, “but they haven’t given us any time frame as to when they think it will be resolved.”

The state business exchange, known as a SHOP exchange, has experienced no serious technical problems, Nuñez said.

A phone-in help center is receiving 100 to 200 calls a day, he said.

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