Federal funds help cut health care costs - Albuquerque Journal

Federal funds help cut health care costs

Jeanette Dudovick, left , gets her glucose level checked by Lovelace Medical Assistant Jill Padilla during the Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico Open Enrollment Senior Health Care Expo held at Embassy Suites on Oct. 13. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis/Journal)

While the pandemic has brought challenges to New Mexicans, federal legislation has brought financial assistance in the form of lower health care costs.

“It’s such an opportunity,” said Ernie C’deBaca, president of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber of Commerce. “New Mexico is the kind of state that can really take advantage of this.”

BeWellnm, the state’s health care marketplace, has partnered with the Hispano Chamber this year to spread the word about health care coverage options for individuals, families and businesses in New Mexico.

Extra financial help is available this year through the American Rescue Plan, the $1.9 trillion economic stimulus passed by federal lawmakers in March.

Attendees browse vendor booths at an Oct. 13 open enrollment event hosted by Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico. (ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOURNAL)

People who did not qualify for financial assistance in the past may now be eligible. Those who did qualify previously may be eligible for even more financial subsidies as a result of the legislation, according to Maureen Manring, director of communication and outreach of beWellnm.

There are more than 56,000 uninsured New Mexicans who currently qualify for financial assistance in the form of premium reductions, according to Manring.

In fact, four out of five New Mexicans can get a plan for less than $10 a month, says Jeffery Bustamante, CEO of beWellnm. There’s even no-cost health insurance available for some people.

“We’ve seen substantial savings, over $70 a month for some folks, and sometimes even more,” Bustamante said.

The open enrollment period for beWellnm begins Nov. 1 and ends Jan. 15, 2022. Existing enrollees can log in to their account at beWellnm.com to update their application or call 1-833-862-3935. Folks new to beWellnm, whether uninsured or interested in pursuing a more affordable option, can create an account at the website.

Outreach efforts

The Hispano Chamber and beWellnm have 13 in-person events planned to bring information and support to the areas of the state with the highest percentage of uninsured people. From November until January, they’ll be covering the “four corners of the state,” from Farmington to Artesia and Las Cruces to Taos, C’deBaca said.

Teresa and Romine Aubrey dance to the music of the Roger Burns Band Oct. 13 during a Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico open enrollment event. ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOURNAL

Whether live, online or over the phone, beWellnm is available to give guidance on how to apply and provide specifics on the financial assistance that’s available.

“Things that have happened this past 18 months — we know there’s a lot of individuals that need some help,” C’deBaca said. “And there’s a lot of people that are making different choices, as we know,

Ernie C’deBaca

not going back to work, and so they need coverage.”

The Hispano Chamber, a nonprofit member-based organization focused on improving economic development and job training, has been working with beWellnm to reach out to New Mexicans about their health insurance options since January.

“They’re the brains and we’re the brawn, so to speak,” C’deBaca said, referring to beWellnm’s expertise in what assistance is available from the federal government.

The chamber is using its experience and reach in the communities of New Mexico to relay beWellnm’s message.

“New Mexico is 48% Hispanic, 12% Native American,” C’deBaca said. “That blends perfectly into (the) Hispano Chamber, that’s exactly what we do here with our small-business community and people that we serve.”

The chamber’s “brawn” is bolstered by a team of local talent with experience in marketing, web design and health care that includes K2MD Health, New Mexico Primary Care Association, Real Time Solutions, Research & Polling Inc. and James Korenchen Public Relations.

Together, they are working to reduce the number of uninsured New Mexicans.

“The majority of our counties have free local help, and that can be an agent, a broker, an enrollment counselor,” Bustamante said. “These are certified, trained professionals ready to help folks through that journey. Doesn’t cost them anything, but can help them identify what works best for them.”

Rahemet Rahim, left, looks at informational materials Oct. 13 at an open enrollment event in Albuquerque. ADOLPHE PIERRE-LOUIS/JOURNAL

The beWellnm marketplace is offering New Mexicans 48 different health insurance plans to choose from for 2022.

“All plans cover the 10 essential benefits, such as doctor visits, hospital stays, maternity care, emergency room care, prescriptions and more,” according to a beWellnm press release. New Mexicans can enroll regardless of health status, age or gender.

The exchange added a sixth insurance company to the five carriers that provided plans to New Mexico’s 33 counties last year. Presbyterian Health Plan joins Ambetter from Western Sky Community Care, Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico, Friday Health Plans, Molina HealthCare and True Health New Mexico for 2022.

“That’s more options for New Mexico,” Bustamante said. “So, that’s the ultimate win for all of us.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story included an incorrect phone number where New Mexicans can access help learning about beWellnm. The correct number is 1-833-862-3935. The story has been updated.

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