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New study shows ACA marketplace consumers are more satisfied with plans than those with employer coverage: One consumer’s story

by Elizabeth Perkins
Health Policy Intern at Health Action NM


In a time when the term Obamacare still elicits mixed and often passionate reactions, new research suggests that shoppers are happy with their Obamacare-enable plans – even more so than those who get health coverage from an employer.  The J.D. Power 2015 Health Insurance Marketplace Exchange Shopper and Re-Enrollment (HIX) Study, released on April 23, 2015, shows a significant improvement in plan satisfaction during 2015 as compared to 2014 (the first year plans were available). Satisfaction among new members and re-enrollees that purchased plans through the marketplace exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is equal to or higher than with plans not purchased through an exchange.  J.D. Power reports cost to be the most significant factor influencing member satisfaction among Marketplace members.


As someone who has been uninsured, on Medicaid, on employer provided insurance, and having recently purchased an individual plan from the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange (NMHIX), I like to think I offer a unique perspective on the successes and downfalls of each option. As a working adult with zero dependents it has been a long time since I have qualified for Medicaid (but I was glad the option was there when I needed it), and there are no upsides to being uninsured, so I will focus this discussion on employer provided vs Marketplace coverages.


When the ACA (or what many call “Obamacare”) went into effect at the end of 2013, I was working full time for a company who decided to obtain group coverage – a type of coverage that many large firms obtain.  I was excited about this decision because I was uninsured at the time and I knew the ACA required me to obtain some form of health coverage.  When I learned how much my monthly premium was going to be (and, mind you, I was only paying half, my employer paid the other half) I was shocked. I was also shocked to learn that my plan had a pre-existing condition clause!


Just my luck, I seriously sprained my ankle during a company softball game on the first day my plan became active. I found out about the pre-existing condition clause when I received a bill for $1200 dollars from the MRI despite having gotten a pre-authorization. I couldn’t believe that I was paying almost $200 per month (remember this is only half of the total premium) and the first time I tried to use the insurance it didn’t even pay for anything. I was irritated. Here I was, insured by a coveted employer based plan, and I was scared to use it due to the pre-existing condition clause (it only lasted 6 months, but it sure wound up costing me) and my $5,000 deductible.  But what was I going to do?  The only other option I had was the “Gold” option which would reduce my deductible to only $2,500 but nearly double my premium. I was stuck with what my employer had chosen to offer.


On February 18, 2015 I suddenly became unemployed, and would soon revert back to being uninsured. I was in the middle of some routine medical procedures, so I knew I needed to get coverage back sooner than later. I looked at trying to get coverage on my significant other’s insurance but the required paperwork and red tape that arose because we are not married was a lot to overcome.  So, I decided to look at the NMHIX for coverage.  I am pretty tech savvy and understand health insurance pretty well so I didn’t have much problem navigating the website, but I can see how difficult it must be for consumers who aren’t familiar with the system. However, my experience was great: I was clearly shown what financial help was available to help me pay for my premium (via a subsidy that appeared as a discount) and offered a wide range of plans ranging from $18-250 for my out-of-pocket costs.


I looked through the options using the website’s “compare” feature and chose a plan that I knew my current doctors would take.  It had a reasonable premium and $0 dollar deductible. What?! I didn’t believe this could be true. I was paying half of what I was paying under my employer insurance – I couldn’t  believe the plan really had no deductible (the cost that you have to pay before your insurance kicks in).


I decided to buy the plan and an accompanying dental plan and figured I would brace myself for when I found out what my real deductible was when I got my information packet in the mail in a few days. I received my information booklet in the mail that included a summary of benefits and my eyes focused on the section that said Deductible: $0, Out of Pocket Maximum: $2,250. I continued to read through the booklet trying to find the catch, but I found none.


I have only had the plan for about two months; I have used it, and encountered no issues. I have searched and searched for where the deficiency in my new Marketplace is and have so far come up empty handed; I cannot find one reason not to be satisfied with my new Obamacare plan.  Hopefully, and it seems this is so, this is the experience that other shoppers have had as well. 

Health Action

Meet our new intern: Ellie Perkins


Ellie Perkins - New HANM Intern



My name is Elizabeth Perkins (I go by Ellie) and I would like to introduce myself as a new intern at Health Action New Mexico (HANM). I am currently a graduate student at A.T. Still University working on my Master’s in Public Health (M.P.H.) with a dental emphasis. I will also be starting law school at UNM in the fall. I chose to intern with HANM because of my background in dentistry and passion to increase access to dental care, and HANM shares in that passion and then some. I was particularly interested in advocating for the Dental Therapist Licensure Act because as a native New Mexican who grew up in a rural area east of Albuquerque I know the struggles that exist in accessing dental care. As a child on Medicaid, my family had to make the lengthy drive to Albuquerque for dental appointments, frequently had to switch dentists when one would stop taking Medicaid, and often wait long periods of time for an appointment, even for the treatment of acute pain. I have spent the better part of the past 13 years working in the dental field and have heard countless stories that mirror my own. Dental access is a real issue in New Mexico and needs to be addressed.

Finding a real solution to the oral health access issues in our state is what brought me to HANM and the Dental Therapy Licensure Act. New Mexico already has strong educational programs training dental hygienists, dental assistants, and dentist residents, but a deficit still exists all over the state. I believe strongly that mid-level dental providers (dental therapists) are the answer in our state and I am willing to push for New Mexico to join with other states who have realized this solution, and be on the leading front nationally as an example for other states wanting the same options. I look forward to learning more about the legislative process and helping to improve access to oral health care for all New Mexicans.

Health Action

What Health Action NM Staff Are Reading This Week: April 20 - April 24

The behavioral health shakeup continues to cripple the state’s fragile behavioral health system.  In 2013, the Martinez Administration shut down the offices of dozens of mental health providers, claiming that they fraudulently overcharged Medicaid for services.  Two years later, the administration has yet to provide evidence that the charges were fraudulent and the system remains in disarray.  The human cry now is for a roadmap forward.  Systemic reform has been attempted before several times in New Mexico.  And still, too many people, including thousands of children, are not getting the critical services they need, and they pay with the quality of their lives.  And ultimately everyone pays - not to mention the basic right to health care. Isn't it time for a well-thought-out reorganization of a system that builds on what can work?  

-       Barbara Webber, Executive Director

New York to offer more affordable coverage options to low/moderate income residents.   New York is moving forward with its Basic Health Plan, a health coverage option available to those making between 133% and 200% of the Federal  Poverty Level (FPL).  Many consumers still struggle to pay the monthly premiums offered on the private marketplace.  This new program will reduce barriers to care and reduce the “churn” between Medicaid and the exchange for people whose incomes fluctuate month-to-month.  According to the Times Union, “consumers with income at or below 150% FPL ($17,655 for a household of one, or $36,375 for a household of four) will pay no monthly premium. Those with slightly higher incomes at 200% FPL ($23,540 for a household of one, or $48,500 for a household of four) will pay $20 a month.”   

Given the state of New Mexico’s economy, it would make sense to consider this option.  State Senator Gerald Ortiz y Pino introduced a memorial to have legislative staff study the idea, but it didn’t come to a vote in the House.  Affordability remains the key barrier to accessing health coverage and care.  It’s time for New Mexico to start taking this idea seriously.

-       Colin Baillio, Communications and Outreach

New Mexico keeps its exchange but will continue to use the federal website.  Several weeks ago, the board of the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange (NMHIX) voted to scale back funding for their IT system in order to prioritize other goals, such as providing outreach and enrollment services, marketing, and continuing the current level of staffing.  This decision was made after the federal government rejected a $90 million grant proposal drafted by NMHIX.   Without that funding, the board had to decide how to best use current funds.  Our view is that this was the best choice, given that the federal website is functional while many state websites continue to struggle.  Plus, the benefits of coordinated outreach and enrollment efforts are more important than having our own website.  After the first two years of sign-ups, we know that these services are the most effective way to inform consumers about new coverage options and help decide what kind of coverage they want.  Moving forward, outreach and enrollment assistance should be the exchange's primary tools for increasing understanding about new coverage options and enrollment numbers.

-       Joe Martinez, Consumer Outreach Coordinator

The tax season health coverage enrollment period is almost over!  Consumers who found that they owed a penalty for lacking insurance in 2014 can get covered and avoid next year’s heightened penalties.  So far, 68,000 people have taken advantage of this opportunity, which ends on April 30, 2015. Health Action New Mexico has created a bilingual consumer resource for those who want enrollment assistance during the tax enrollment period.  We hope a similar opportunity will be in place for consumers next year when the penalty increases to the greater of $625 per person or 2.5% of income.  However, more coordination needs to take place between NMHIX and tax preparers so that consumers can take advantage of the opportunity when they file taxes.  Don’t miss out on this opportunity to get covered if you are uninsured!

-       DeAnza V. Sapien, MS JD, Administration and Grant Development


Health Action

What Health Action NM is Reading This Week: April 13-17

What Health Action NM is Reading This Week:

April 13-15


California’s state legislature considers extending health coverage options to undocumented immigrants. The Affordable Care Act barred undocumented immigrants from receiving Medicaid benefits, financial assistance on the exchange, and even purchasing coverage on the newly-created health insurance marketplaces.  California State Senator Ricardo Lara recently introduced a bill that would extend coverage to over a million undocumented immigrants in California by providing state funding for this population.  Communities throughout New Mexico are strengthened by families with undocumented immigrants.  And yet so many members of these families lack meaningful access to health coverage.  Is it time for New Mexico to start thinking about how to cover undocumented immigrants in our state?

  • Barbara Webber, Executive Director


Congress passed a bill extending funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). In addition to an historic effort to overhaul Medicare’s payment system, Congress has funded an essential health coverage program for kids, called CHIP, for two years.  While a four year extension would have been preferable, this deal secures protections for children that have been built in to the program that would have been under threat if the program weren’t part of this package.  Senator Udall and Senator Heinrich had the opportunity to champion a four year extension of the bill and stood in support of the measure, for which we commend them.  Health Action NM thanks all of our state’s delegation for supporting access to health care for children in New Mexico and throughout the nation.

  • Colin Baillio, Communications and Outreach


Florida achieves remarkable health coverage outcomes by embracing a community-based outreach and enrollment model. Time and time again, we are reminded of the importance of outreach and in-person enrollment assistance.  Advocates in Florida have fully embraced this strategy, with promising results.  Despite opposition from state government, Florida “surpass[ed] enrollment projections and [achieved greater numbers than] much-larger California and even Texas, a state more populous, more uninsured and with similar Republican opposition to the law.”  Florida's model exemplifies the type of program that New Mexico must adopt to ensure that all children and families thrive.

  • Joe Martinez, Consumer Outreach Coordinator


New York begins implementing law protecting consumers from surprise out-of-network medical bills. Private insurance plans often allow consumers to access a limited network of health care providers. These are known as “in-network providers.”  If a consumer visits a doctor who isn’t in their network, they’re usually on the hook for the full cost of the services they receive.  New York’s state legislature recognized that people are often in situations where they require emergency services outside of their insurer’s network or aren’t notified that a provider isn’t in their network.  The state passed a law to protect consumers from those unexpected costs.  

As of March 31st, “all health plans must cover at the in-network cost any out-of-network provider bill for emergency services, as well as surprise non-emergency bills for physician services in a hospital or surgical facility when an in-network provider is unavailable; the consumer was not informed in advance; or when a physician refers the consumer to any out-of-network provider,” according to the Governor's Office.  Shouldn’t New Mexico protect consumers who find themselves in a situation when they aren't aware of or able to determine whether their provider is in network?

  • DeAnza Sapien, Administration and Grant Development
Health Action

CONSUMER ALERT: Update your marketplace information throughout the year

The Kaiser Family Foundation recently released a report indicating that nearly half of all consumers who received tax credits in 2014 underestimated their income.  As a result, those individuals will have to pay back part or all of the additional financial assistance.  This unfortunate occurrence is a reminder that marketplace consumers should update their income on a monthly basis in order get an accurate tax credit and avoid having to pay back portions of their tax credits.

Many individuals and families don’t have a consistent month-to-month income.  Because marketplace tax credits are -how-do-the-premium-tax-credits-work">based on income, consumers should be sure to update their financial information on a monthly basis.  To do that, follow these instructions:   

  • Online. Log in to your account. Select your existing application, choose "Report a life change" from the menu on the left, and then click on the "Report a life change" button. Find out how to upload documents
  • By phone. Contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325)

Important: Do not report these changes by mail.


There are other factors that affect your household income for tax purposes, such as having a child or getting married.  Below is a list of life changes that should be reported to the marketplace.  Report changes if you:

  • Get married or divorced
  • Have a child, adopt a child, or place a child for adoption
  • Have a change in income
  • Get health coverage through a job or a program like Medicare or Medicaid
  • Change your place of residence
  • Have a change in disability status
  • Gain or lose a dependent
  • Become pregnant
  • Experience other changes that may affect your income and household size
  • Have a change in tax filing status
  • Have a change of citizenship or immigration status
  • Become incarcerated or released from incarceration
  • Have a change in status as an American Indian/Alaska Native or tribal status
  • Need to correct your name, date of birth, or Social Security number

If you have any questions regarding marketplace tax credits, please contact Health Action NM by calling (505) 322-2152 or email 

Health Action

Get Covered and Avoid Tax Penalties for 2015

Health Action NM has created a bilingual resource for New Mexicans who find that they owe a penalty for lacking insurance for part or all of 2014.  From March 15th to April 30th, uninsured families and individuals can sign up for health coverage with financial assistance.  The resource provides information about how to connect with in-person assistance to sign up for health coverage and avoid penalties for 2015, which increase to the greater of $325 per person or 2% of household income.   See the bottom of this page to view the resource as a JPG or click here for the PDF version.


Who is eligible for the “Tax Season” SEP?

Consumers are eligible for this SEP if they:

  • are not currently enrolled in 2015 coverage (whether through New Mexico’s Health Insurance Exchange (NMHIX), an employer, the off-exchange individual marketplace, or other forms of minimum essential coverage),
  • attest that they are or will be subject to the fee for not having health coverage for all or part of 2014 when they file their 2014 taxes, and
  • attest that they first became aware of, or understood the implications of, the requirement to maintain minimum essential coverage (MEC) after the end of open enrollment (February 15, 2015) in connection with preparing their 2014 taxes.

What does “subject to the fee” mean?

  • Eligible consumers must be required to pay the fee for at least part of 2014.
  • Consumers do not have to have paid the fee before enrolling through the SEP. In other words, consumers who have not yet filed their 2014 income tax return (including those who have an IRS extension to file their 2014 return) may still be eligible for this SEP so long as they will have to pay the fee when they do actually file their taxes.

Who is not eligible for this SEP?

  • Consumers who are exempt from the fee for the entire year in 2014 or who had coverage for the entire year in 2014.
  • Consumers who completed their tax filing prior to February 15, 2015 or otherwise became aware that they would be subject to the fee in 2014 before the end of open enrollment.
  • Consumers who do not have to pay the penalty but are subject to reconciliation and have to repay Advance Premium Tax Credits received in 2014.

How long does this SEP last?

  • This SEP will begin on March 15th and end on April 30th.
  • Consumers who qualify must complete the entire enrollment process (that is, including selecting a plan) by 11:59 pm E.S.T. on April 30th.
  • Similar to during open enrollment, consumers who enroll in an initial plan during this SEP can switch to a different plan through April 30th. Note, however, that all plan selections and enrollment processes must be completed by 11:59 pm E.S.T. on April 30th.

How will eligible consumers open or unlock this SEP?

  • As of March 15th, the online application includes questions about the attestations in the third and fourth eligibility requirements listed above. 
  • Consumers can also access this SEP through the Call Center.

When will coverage begin?

  • Normal coverage effective dates apply. If a consumer enrolls in coverage on or before the 15th of the month, coverage will be effective on the first day of the following month. In order to have coverage begin April 1st, consumers must enroll on March 15th.
  • Note that consumers who enroll through this SEP will be subject to the fee for the months they did not have coverage and were not exempt in 2015 when they file their taxes in 2016. For example, if an eligible consumer enrolls on March 15th his coverage will begin April 1st. When he files his 2015 taxes in 2016, he will be subject to the fee for January through March (3 months) unless he qualifies for an exemption.

Are undocumented immigrants or Native Americans subject to the shared responsibility payment if they don’t have health coverage?

Undocumented immigrants and Native Americans do not have to pay any fees or penalties for lacking health coverage.  The IRS recently clarified this rule, stating “Individuals who are not U.S. citizens or nationals, and are not lawfully present in the United States, are exempt from the individual shared responsibility provision and do not need to make a payment.  For this purpose, an immigrant with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status is considered not lawfully present and therefore is exempt.  An individual may qualify for this exemption even if he or she has a social security number (SSN).”

If an improper penalty has been charged, tax filers will need to amend their tax return by filling out Form 8965, which can be found at




Health Action

Health Action NM Releases Health Coverage Resource for Native Americans

In collaboration with the National Indian Council on Aging and the Diverse Elders Coalition, Health Action New Mexico has released a resource to help explain how the Affordable Care Act affects Native Americans between the ages 50 and 64.  “There is still a great deal of work to be done to raise awareness among tribal communities and urban Indians about new coverage options available through the new health reform law,” said Barbara Webber, Executive Director of Health Action NM.  “Our hope is that this fact sheet will be helpful for Native Americans who need health services that can’t be provided by the Indian Health Service.”

Nationally, about one of three Native Americans and Alaskan Indians lack health coverage, according to a 2013 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation.  The only other recourse is to use the Indian Health Service (IHS), which provides primary care for members of Federally Recognized Tribes.  But with severely limited capacity for specialty services and consistent underfunding from the federal government, IHS is often unable to meet the health care needs of the population it serves.  Many tribal members are acutely aware of the link between the lack of access to care and the lower-than-average life expectancy among Native American populations.

New coverage expansions provide benefits for tribal communities and urban Indians that can extend crucial health care services to populations in need.  The Medicaid Expansion provides free health coverage to Americans making under $15,655 per year ($1,305 per month) as an individual.  The New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange is a marketplace where those making above that amount can shop for a private health coverage plan, with financial assistance available to help make coverage affordable.  Native Americans are eligible for premium discounts if they make below about $46,680 per year as individuals ($3,890 per month) and face no out-of-pocket costs if, as an individual, they make below $35,310 per year ($2,943 per month).

FPL Infographic FINAL (1).png

Native Americans ages 50-64 stand to gain from these new benefits, especially if they live with chronic conditions that require routine treatment.  Health Action NM’s new resource acknowledges that being able to manage a condition with a doctor is crucial to the health of older adults, which is why IHS and health coverage can lead to a synergy between primary and specialty care providers.  “We made sure to explain how new coverage options can be used in addition to IHS services,” according to Barbara Webber.

With the release of this fact sheet, Health Action NM seeks to make this information available in its most accessible form. “We held an incredible group discussion with members of tribes throughout the state to ensure that this fact sheet is useful for Native Americans in New Mexico,” said Joe Martinez, Outreach Coordinator for Health Action NM. “That discussion will be the basis for future collaborations with Native Americans who want to see their communities thrive.”

Click here to view the fact sheet.

Please contact Health Action NM if you would like copies of the fact sheet for your community:

Health Action New Mexico
3700 Osuna Rd NE, Ste 504, Albuquerque, NM  87109
(505) 322-2152


Health Action

Young Invincibles Release New Qualifying Life Event Infographic

You may qualify for this years Special Enrollment Period into the NM Health Insurance Exchange if any one of the following occured in your life during 2014 or 2015: 

1) You moved addresses

2) Your income changed or you lost/gained employment

3) You got married 

4) You had a baby 

5) You filed for a divorse

6) You turned 26 and lost your parent's insurance 

</a> Q2: What types of events qualify you for special enrollment? <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Families USA () <a href="">March 16, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> ">

</a> Q2: What types of events qualify you for special enrollment? <a href=""></a> <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Families USA () <a href="">March 16, 2015</a></blockquote> <script async src="//" charset="utf-8"></script> ">

If you think you qualify for any of these life changing events and would like to still sign up for health coverage, you can either visit (where you can apply online right from the comfort of your home, office, school, etc.) or you can reach Health Action NM at 505-322-2152 and we can get you in touch with your nearest Healthcare Councelor who can set up an appointment to get you covered today! 

Health Action

Be on the Lookout for Fraudulent Insurance Activity

Some consumers in New Mexico have been purposely misdirected to private insurance brokers when they thought they were visiting the official Health Insurance Exchange website,, or calling a qualified broker or enrollment counselor.  This is a serious issue because the official exchange is the only place to get financial assistance for premiums and out-of-pocket costs.  In addition, brokers continue to offer plans that do not meet the standards for a qualified health plan, leaving consumers with weak insurance that doesn’t shield them from tax penalties.


An enrollment counselor at the Southwest Women’s Law Center reports that she has seen an influx of consumers that have been victims of this scam.  The center’s Staff Attorney, Paige Duhamel, talked to a number of consumers who said that the brokers “talked at a rapid pace to pressure the consumer, refused to answer questions and caused a great deal of confusion and stress about the enrollment process.”  

It is important that consumers know what to do to avoid these types of issues.  Below are signs of fraudulent activity to keep an eye on when seeking enrollment assistance:

1) You are being charged an enrollment or sign-up fee

2) Your plan’s deductible is more than $6,350

3) The assister has you pay for the first few months’ premiums in advance

4) The assister does not speak to you about financial assistance or Medicaid eligibility

5) The assister asks you if you have a pre-existing condition

6) If you do enroll, the assister does not send you any documentation about your enrollment

7) The assister a) is unwilling to give you their name and direct contact number, b) has an out-of-state contact number, c) has a non-1800 number, or d) has a direct contact number that is anything other than the number for (1-800-318-2596).  Always take down the name and phone number of the person with whom you are speaking

8) The assister only talks to you about one health insurance carrier’s plan


Health Action

Get Covered. Stay Covered. Keep Your TV!

Health Action NM teamed up with local Albuquerque Theatre company, Blackout Theatre, to produce a Young Adult enrollment video! Check it out, share it with your friends, and tell us what you think!


Get Covered. Stay Covered. Keep Your TV!, by HealthActionNM
Health Action