by Barry Massey, Associated Press
About 103,000 low-income New Mexicans have enrolled in Medicaid since the state expanded who qualifies for the health care program, according to the latest figures from Gov. Susana Martinez’s administration.
The state opened enrollment in October and medical services started for new recipients in January. With the expansion, Medicaid provides health care for nearly 30 percent of the state’s population.
Human Services Department spokesman Matt Kennicott said the pace of enrollment suggests that the agency will meet or exceed its projections that about 130,000 low-income adults will gain medical coverage during the first year of the Medicaid expansion.
The federal government initially is covering the cost of health care for those who enroll.
New Mexico has among the highest uninsured rates in the nation, with nearly one in five of its residents lacking medical coverage
Under new Medicaid guidelines, an adult with two children can qualify for Medicaid with earnings of about $27,300 a year. That’s roughly 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
In the past, Medicaid mostly served children in lower-income families, pregnant women, elderly adults in nursing homes and some disabled people.
The Medicaid expansion was provided for under the federal health care overhaul law that also allows uninsured individuals — those who don’t qualify for Medicaid — to buy medical insurance from private insurers through an online marketplace.
The growth of Medicaid has been much greater than health coverage enrollment through the exchange. About 15,000 New Mexicans have signed up for health insurance plans through a federally operated exchange from October through February.
The federal exchange was plagued with technical problems at the outset that made it difficult for consumers to use.
New Mexico is initially relying on a federal exchange website for enrolling individuals. A state-run exchange allows small businesses to offer insurance coverage to employees.
The state exchange initially had expected about 80,000 new individuals to sign up for health plans in the first year, but that goal has been rolled back to 40,000 to 50,000 by the end of the year.
There’s no deadline for enrolling in Medicaid, but March 31 is the last day to sign up for a potentially subsidized health plan through the online exchange. New Mexico exchange officials hope to see as many as 40,000 individuals enrolled by the end of the month or if the enrollment period is extended, according to exchange spokeswoman Debra Hammer.
She said the state exchange plans to start handling open enrollment for individuals in October for coverage that will start in 2015.
Kennicott said about 60,000 of the newly enrolled Medicaid recipients are individuals who previously had received limited health care through other state programs — one that had served the working poor and the other offering family planning services. In the shift to the expanded Medicaid program, those individuals receive a broader range of medical benefits.
A majority of those who’ve signed up for Medicaid enrolled at one of the department’s Income Support Offices throughout the state, according to Kennicott. The state also has a website and telephone hotline that can assist with enrollment.
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