Molina top firm on NM health exchange

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Molina Healthcare of New Mexico was the most popular choice among the 55,000 people in the state who bought private health insurance this year through the state’s health exchange.

About 37 percent of those who enrolled for 2016 coverage signed up with Molina, while 35 percent went with New Mexico Health Connections, according to Linda Wedeen, a spokeswoman for the state exchange.

Presbyterian Health Plan and CHRISTUS Health Plan rounded out the rest of the insurance shoppers, with 21 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

All the insurers no doubt saw gains with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico’s decision to withdraw its individual insurance products from the exchange this year, Wedeen said.

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Blue Cross pulled out because state insurance regulators wouldn’t grant a rate increase of 51.6 percent it said it needed to meet costs.

New Mexico Health Connections, the only nonprofit co-op on the state exchange, said its figures show its enrollment was up by 30 percent over last year, with 19,400 signing up.

The co-op, like others across the nation, faces the end of some government programs designed to support insurers as they build business on the public insurance exchanges.

A dozen of the 23 co-ops created under the Affordable Care Act have closed, and many of the survivors lost well over $20 million last year, according to recently filed annual statements compiled by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

Lydia Ashanin, a spokeswoman for Health Connections, did not know Friday when the co-op would make 2015 financial details available or how it would be affected by the demise of some federal programs. It reported losses of $4.3 million in 2014.

The co-op’s overall membership totals 50,000 enrollees across all its health insurance lines, up 66 percent from the 33,000 the co-op served a year ago. Small group membership consisting of employers with 50 or fewer workers has nearly doubled from 8,000 to 15,000 year over year, according to Ashanin. Large group membership for businesses with more than 50 employees has doubled from 2,000 to 4,000 in the same period, the co-op’s top executive said in a recent interview.

“Part of our long-term strategy has always been to incorporate more large groups and diversify our business,” Dr. Martin Hickey, Health Connections CEO, said.

Nationwide, a government report released Friday showed that health insurance enrollment for 2015 under the Affordable Care Act missed a goal set by Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell.

The report from the Obama administration says about 8.8 million consumers were still signed up and paying premiums at the end of last year in the insurance markets created by the president’s 2010 health care law.

Burwell’s goal had been to have 9.1 million customers by then, so the administration didn’t miss its target by much — about 3 percent.

However, the 2015 coverage year had started with 11.7 million people signed up. Measured from that initial starting point, the attrition rate is a lot higher, about 25 percent.

Material from The Associated Press was incorporated into this report.

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