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‘Obamacare’ sign-ups rise in New Mexico

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Government data show that more New Mexicans have signed up for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace compared to the same time last year.

The federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid services reported Wednesday that 12,652 New Mexicans signed up in the third week of the enrollment period. Last year, 12,071 had signed up a full week later.

It was not immediately clear whether the increase reflects a growing interest in the state’s marketplace or the shortened enrollment period this year.

The Trump administration, which has made undermining the act a cornerstone of its health care policy, cut the enrollment period from three months to six weeks. The last day to sign up is Dec. 15.

Nationally, sign-ups are also up: so far 1.5 million have selected Affordable Care Act plans compared to last year’s 1 million over a similar time period, according to CMS.

The release of the data midway through the enrollment period marks the first look at sign-up numbers in New Mexico. About 55,000 New Mexicans in 2016 signed up for plans through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The administration has also ended certain subsidies to health insurance companies who cover low-income people; cut the consumer outreach budget by 90 percent; and planned outages of the federal marketplace website, Healthcare.gov, during peak enrollment times.

In New Mexico, middle and higher income consumers are likely to see another change: steeper premiums. In September, regulators approved premium increases ranging from 36 percent to 41 percent for mid-level insurance coverage. State Insurance Superintendent John Franchini told the Journal that the increases were heavily influenced by the expectation that the federal government would discontinue subsidy payments to insurers, which it ultimately did.

Still, tens of thousands New Mexicans could be eligible for tax credits to offset those higher premiums if they earn between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty level. According to a report by the nonprofit Health Action New Mexico, some individuals may be able to find plans that cost them nothing as a result of the credits.

In 2017, 73 percent of New Mexicans enrolled in the marketplace qualified for some amount of premium assistance, according to the report.

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