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NM health insurers likely to dial back rate hikes

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The state’s superintendent of insurance on Thursday said he expects insurers to dial back requested rate increases for health plans bought by individuals on the state insurance exchange.

Superintendent John Franchini, following a presentation to the New Mexico Insurance Nominating Committee at the Capitol, was asked his thoughts on health insurers’ rate revisions expected later this month. After reviewing the original rate requests, and considering what some of the insurers have stated publicly, Franchini said that he expected rates to be revised down to between 6 and 20 percent increases.

In June, the providers for New Mexico’s health exchange, known as beWellnm, initially proposed rate increases ranging from about 20 percent to 85 percent for 2018 policies.

However, final rate requests have not been processed and will continue through the review process, with decisions being made in September.

Currently, all four carriers who participated in the individual exchange in 2017 have also filed submissions for 2018, which includes Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico, Christus Health Plan, Molina Healthcare of New Mexico, and New Mexico Health Connections.

The state agency, which evaluates whether premiums are justified and checks that plans provide essential health benefits, said premiums on the high side in the first round of requests reflected uncertainty about whether federal subsides would go away for out-of-pocket expenses such as copayments and deductibles for lower-income enrollees, as well as income-based tax credits that help people buy coverage.

“I think most of the companies are looking for ways to stay in the market. But those cost-sharing subsidies are critical,” said Franchini in an interview when the providers submitted the first round of rate requests. If the subsidies don’t survive, Franchini says some insurers are likely to pull out of the market, or they will have to increase costs for New Mexico’s 55,000 exchange enrollees.

Republican plans to overhaul health care subsides and enforcement provisions have stalled in Washington.