Heinrich, Haaland push health insurance signups

December 15, 2019
In The News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Several hundred people were getting their blood pressure and sugar checked in the South Valley a couple of weeks ago. Some were getting flu shots.

U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., was among them.

“I got a flu shot and my blood pressure taken,” the congresswoman said of a health fair she and U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich hosted at the South Valley Multi-Purpose Senior Center.

Getting her health screen wasn’t the main reason she was attending the fair. She and Heinrich were hosting the fair to promote health insurance signups with beWellnm. The deadline for enrollment is Dec. 15.

“I want every New Mexican to have an opportunity to have health care,” she said. “It wasn’t too long ago that all of us remember this in Albuquerque, people used to have to go to the emergency room to get their health care. I do not want to go back to that. We need people to get enrolled.”

Heinrich said he was encouraging residents to sign up because he wanted them to avoid “junk plans.”

“BeWellnm.com is the portal to all of the health care plans that are really quality plans,” the senator said. “We’ve seen a rise in the last couple of years in junk plans that are heavy on marketing and low on coverage. When you go on the exchange, you know you’re going to get a quality product, and that you’re going to get the coverage you need.”

There are currently about 47,000 New Mexicans enrolled in the program, beWellnm broker relations specialist Katrina Smith said.

“We’re doing fairly well, people are coming in, signing up, getting it done before that Dec. 15 deadline,” she said. “I think we’re holding pretty steady compared to what we did last year.”

Blue Cross/Blue Shield, New Mexico Health Connection, Molina Health Care and True Health New Mexico are the four carriers that serve beWellnm.

“People should know when they go on to beWellnm that they are seeing all of the plans with legitimate providers, who meet the minimum standards for what health insurance should look like,” Heinrich said.

Each must provide at least the basic 10 essential health benefits: ambulatory patient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management; pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

That may not be the case with plans offered on the federal government’s healthcare.gov, the senator said, due to rule changes by the Trump administration.

“They’ve changed the rules to facilitate these plans that people learned after the fact that don’t actually cover the things they need,” he said. ” … If you go on to healthcare.gov, there’s a button that navigates you off of healthcare.gov into a website which may have some good plans, but also have plans that are not meeting the criteria in this minimum threshold.”

Both Heinrich and Haaland are concerned that residents may no longer have the options provided by beWellnm if a court ruling striking down the Affordable Care Act is upheld. The ACA set up the marketplace offered by beWellnm.

“If that challenge is successful, then we’re back to ground zero,” Heinrich said. “We’ll have to start from scratch. A lot of people would lose their private coverage. A lot of people would lose coverage through Medicaid expansion. You would see a huge increase in uninsured rates. … It would be an utter disaster for the state of New Mexico and our economy.”