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Obama Revises ACA Rules, Effect On NM Unknown


President Barack Obama held a press conference Thursday in Washington D.C.  He announced that his repeated promise, that people who liked their current insurance plans could keep them, was made in good faith and will be honored. Then reporters pressed him over a flawed rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

The President announced a policy change, and now individual plans scheduled for cancelation on January 1st because they don’t comply with Affordable Care Act regulations could be extended through 2014. Extending policies, though, is up to the insurance companies. For now, the effect of the rule revision is unclear for thousands of New Mexicans. 

John Arnold, of the UNM Health Sciences Center, said that the nearly 27,000 low-income New Mexicans who qualify for UNMCare would not benefit from the extension.  “We believe all or nearly all of them will qualify for expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act or for one of the health exchange plans,” he said.  Arnold broke down the numbers, explaining that about 75 percent of these patients will qualify for healthcare coverage under Medicaid - leaving 25 percent to transition to the health exchange plans.

The difference, said Arnold, is that UNMCare is subsidized patient assistance care, not an insurance program. New Mexicans with individual insurance plans may be able to delay changes in coverage.

Presbyterian Healthcare has about 23,000 New Mexicans who were scheduled for insurance cancelations.  Presbyterian has not yet commented on whether the revision of regulations will affect policy holders.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico’s Division Vice-President of External Affairs and Chief of Staff Janice Torrez explained that BCBS headed off this issue earlier this year by changing policy renewal dates.

BCBS policies now renew on December 1st, so those who renew policies this year will be covered until December 2014.  “Our members have until November 30th [2014] to decide what they want to do,” she said.  BCBS did not send any termination notices to their members.

Laurie Volkin, Communications Manager for Lovelace Health System, said in a statement that Lovelace is “in the process of reviewing the administrative action released today by President Obama.”

Kaveh Mowahed is a reporter with KUNM who follows government, public health and housing. Send story ideas to kaveh@kunm.org.