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Obamacare numbers in NM uncertain

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

The federal government reported a surge in health insurance enrollment on its online exchange in December, but how much of that enrollment reached New Mexico companies is anybody’s guess.

Local insurance companies complain that the information they receive from the federal health insurance exchange about new customers is often inaccurate. Only Presbyterian Health Plan provided enrollment numbers when asked by the Journal.

Federal law requires most Americans to have health insurance beginning today.

The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reported Sunday that 1.1 million people had enrolled in a health plan between Oct. 1 and Dec. 24 via the online health insurance exchange established in October by the Affordable Care Act.

More than 975,000 of those people enrolled in December, according to CMS. About another 1 million individuals purchased insurance on state-run exchanges.

New Mexico operates an insurance exchange that allows small businesses to buy health insurance for employees. That exchange has enrolled 340 employees and their dependents, a state exchange official reported this week.

Individual New Mexicans seeking to buy insurance must go directly to an insurance company or use the federal insurance exchange.

Presbyterian reports that 2,012 individuals have purchased the company’s insurance via the federal exchange as of Monday. About 1,275 more individuals have purchased exchange-based products directly from Presbyterian.

Presbyterian had 23,000 customers who bought individual insurance policies in 2013.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Mexico, Lovelace Health Plan, Molina Healthcare of New Mexico and New Mexico Health Connections all declined to disclose enrollment numbers.

Blue Cross, Lovelace and Health Connections all said they don’t trust the enrollment data they are receiving from the federal exchange and don’t want to disclose what they believe might be inaccurate data.

A Molina official said that since the company is publicly traded, it can only release such information as part of its quarterly public financial reports.

Lovelace Health Plan, which is in the process of being sold to Blue Cross, stopped selling insurance on the state and federal exchanges earlier this month. Spokesmen for both companies said Monday that enrollment numbers are in flux and won’t be final until the end of March.

Health Connections CEO Martin Hickey said the pace of enrollment has picked up, but that information about enrollees provided by the federal government continues to be problematic. For example, the company has received premium payments from about 100 customers but no information about those customers from the federal exchange.

Counting customers who avoid the exchange and buy directly from Health Connections, Hickey said enrollment is “in the thousands.”

Health Connections will report enrollment “when we’re sure we can quote accurate numbers,” he said.