NM’s health insurance exchange goes local - Albuquerque Journal

NM’s health insurance exchange goes local

Participation in this year’s open enrollment for New Mexico’s health care marketplace is crucial following its transition from a federally supported state-based exchange to a fully state-run program, beWellnm officials advise.

“It’s really important for the consumers who were on healthcare.gov to understand that they have to go to beWellnm for 2022 coverage,” said Maureen Manring, director of communication and outreach at beWellnm.

BeWellnm is the state’s official health insurance exchange. It exists to help individuals and small businesses in New Mexico get access to affordable health care. In the past, the exchange used the federal enrollment platform healthcare.gov but, starting this fall, the exchange is using its own state-run enrollment platform. Enrollment for 2022 will take place at bewellnm.com.

Maureen Manring

Manring encourages beWellnm participants to reconfirm their accounts and reassess their coverage during open enrollment. New Mexicans may qualify for additional financial assistance with insurance premiums in 2022 as a result of emergency pandemic funding from the federal government.

Furthermore, with the switch from healthcare.gov to bewellnm.com, enrollees who don’t confirm their account during open enrollment run the risk of losing their coverage, said beWellnm CEO Jeffery Bustamante. But beWellnm will make an effort to make sure that doesn’t happen.

“Let’s say somebody gets to January, hasn’t reconfirmed all of that. Well, they’re going to be hearing from us to make sure that they do connect and get that coverage,” Bustamante said.

Plans through beWellnm are available to all New Mexicans who don’t get insurance through an employer, Medicare or Medicaid, and the time to reenroll — or to sign up for the first time — begins Nov. 1.

In addition to the website, people can get started through an in-person event, a virtual event or over the phone.

“It’s just a matter of whatever that consumer’s comfort level is,” Manring said. “There are many different ways.”

Enrollment ends Jan. 15, a month later than in previous years.

“We’re excited to give New Mexicans a little longer to make that decision,” Manring said.

But, to get coverage that starts on Jan. 1, she warned that applications need to be completed earlier and premiums paid by Dec. 23.

The extended deadline serves all the people who want coverage at the beginning of the year, but also meets the needs of folks who want a little longer to assess their financial situation, Bustamante said.

An estimated 95,000 New Mexicans are eligible for health insurance coverage on beWellnm. Bustamante said about 43,000 are currently enrolled.

Jeffery Bustamante

The switch to a fully state-run program means that help navigating the exchange will no longer come from a federal call center, but from within the state, according to Bustamante.

“When they’re calling in, they’re getting assistance with their application or through the process, they’re going to be hearing from New Mexicans,” Bustamante said. “They’re going to be talking to New Mexicans.”

BeWellnm will also have local control when reconciling issues with payment and applications or assisting individuals transitioning between exchange coverage and Medicaid.

In the long term, the change should save money for New Mexico. For 2021, $5.4 million was budgeted for the federal site healthcare.gov. The proposed maintenance and operation budget for 2022’s state-based site is $4.7 million, according to beWellnm’s public relations consultant James Korenchen.

“This is one of the most exciting parts of it,” Bustamante said. “… We were able to negotiate contracts with our vendor that really did come in very competitively, at less than we were paying at the time for healthcare.gov.”

BeWellnm remains a resource for guidance on how to enroll and knowledge on the financial help that’s available, Manring said. People just need to spend a little time looking into the matter.

“They really need to take that opportunity to look into getting a quote, understanding and comparing plans and options for next year,” Manring said.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story listed an incorrect amount that was budgeted for federal site healthcare.gov in 2021. The correct amount is $5.4 million. The story has been updated. 

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