New Mexico

 

In the 5 1/2 years that I've been operating this website (has it really been that long?), I was surprised (pun intended) to realize that out of the 5,600+ blog entries that I've posted, only 2-3 have mentioned "Surprise Bills" (also known as "Balance Billing", although I think there are some differences between the two):

(sigh) Well, it was a good run while it lasted. As I noted last week, New Mexico's new Democratic trifecta government has been on something of a tear in the first few months of 2019, either passing or advancing a number of positive healthcare policies, including:

In addition, there was one more important piece of legislation which looked like it was going to go through without too much fuss: HB 436, which would simply lock in protections for New Mexico residents with pre-existing conditions at the same level that the Affordable Care Act already does nationally:

I've posted so many "Great News!" updates out of New Mexico over the past month that I have a keyboard shortcut to select the NM icon graphic.

Here's the latest out of the Land of Enchantment:

HB 436 passed on the House floor by a vote of 40-24 on Thursday afternoon. The bill would bring New Mexico's state law dealing with pre-existing conditions into line with federal law. 

Rep. Liz Thomson, the bill's sponsor, says health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing conditions is already protected under the federal Affordable Care Act. She wants New Mexico's state law to do the same.

"Because before the Affordable Care Act came along, insurance companies could discriminate based on gender, they charge women more, and on pre-existing conditions," Thomson said. 

A couple of weeks ago, Louise Norris gave me a heads up that not only has the New Mexico Insurance Dept. restricted the sale of non-ACA compliant "short-term, limited duration" plans to be...you know...both short term and of limited duration via regulation...

In September 2018, the New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance (OSI) and Health Action NM (an advocacy group for universal access to health care) presented details about potential state actions to stabilize the individual market. OSI has the authority to regulate some aspects of the plans, including maximum duration, but they noted that legislation would be needed for other changes, including minimum loss ratios and benefit mandates.

New Mexico’s insurance regulations were amended, effective February 1, 2019, to define short-term plans as nonrenewable, and with terms of no more than three months. The regulations also prohibit insurers from selling a short-term plan to anyone who has had short-term coverage within the previous 12 months.

The contrast in how a completely Republican-held state government like Utah and a completely Democratic-held state government like New Mexico deal with Medicaid is pretty astonishing.

In Utah, just four months ago the public voted, clearly and unequivocally, to enact a full expansion of Medicaid to all adults earning up to 138% of the Federal Poverty Line...but the GOP state House, Senate and Governor decided to ignore the voters and override their will by cutting the expansion down to a 100% FPL cap, including work requirements, which will cover tens of thousands fewer people while costing the state $50 million more.

In New Mexico, meanwhile, a newly-enabled Democratic trifecta (I believe both houses of the state legislature were already held by Dems, but the Governorship flipped from Republican Susana Martinez to Democrat Michelle Lujan Grisham) has been on a tear in their first month and a half:

As always, Louise Norris has the skinny:

In September 2018, the New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance (OSI) and Health Action NM (an advocacy group for universal access to health care) presented details about potential state actions to stabilize the individual market. OSI has the authority to regulate some aspects of the plans, including maximum duration, but they noted that legislation would be needed for other changes, including minimum loss ratios and benefit mandates.

New Mexico’s insurance regulations were amended, effective February 1, 2019, to define short-term plans as nonrenewable, and with terms of no more than three months. The regulations also prohibit insurers from selling a short-term plan to anyone who has had short-term coverage within the previous 12 months.

Things have been happening so quickly of late that I'm getting farther and farther behind on some important healthcare policy developments, particularly at the state level. There are two extremely important Public Option announcements which could be game changers if they make it through the legislative process.

Since I don't have time to do full write-ups on either one right now, I'll just present these summaries:

My friend and colleague Colin Baillio, policy director of Health Action New Mexico, has been working on this for a long time, and it looks like this project has finally entered the legislative stage:

LUJÁN APPLAUDS INTRODUCTION OF MEDICAID BUY-IN LEGISLATION IN NEW MEXICO

Louise Norris gave me a heads up the other day...a very early heads up:

NM will operate its own exchange platform starting with the 2021 plan year

New Mexico has a unique exchange; the state runs the small business portion, and while the individual exchange is also technically state-run, Healthcare.gov is used to enroll people in individual insurance (ie, a federally-supported state-based marketplace). But the exchange is planning to establish its own enrollment platform that will be in use by the fall of 2020.

Normally I'd just use a snippet of the entry, but Norris manages to cover all the relevant angles in just a few paragraphs; I think she'll be OK with me cribbing more of it:

Initially, the state had planned to establish a state-run website for individual enrollments fairly soon after the exchanges went live in the fall of 2013, and that was still in the works until early spring 2015. But in April 2015, the exchange board voted to continue to use Healthcare.gov, as that was viewed as the less-costly alternative.

Hmmm...OK, this is rather curious.

New Mexico was one of the earlier states to post their initial, requested 2019 ACA individual market premium hikes back in June. At the time, the five carriers asked for rate increases ranging from a slight drop (-0.4% for Molina) to as high as an 18.5% increase for Presbyterian Health, which is currently only offering off-exchange policies this year. Based on their preliminary filings, New Mexico was looking at a weighted average increase of around 10.0% next year, which would have been more like 4% if not for this years sabotage efforts by Trump and the GOP (mandate repeal & expansion of #ShortAssPlans):

As usual, Louise Norris has the skinny:

Rate filings were due in New Mexico by June 10, 2018, for insurers that wish to offer individual market plans in 2019. Insurers that offer on-exchange coverage have been instructed by the New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance (NMOSI) to add the cost of cost-sharing reductions (CSR) only to on-exchange silver plans and the identical versions of those plans offered off-exchange (different silver plans offered only off-exchange will not have the cost of CSR added to their premiums).

Remember this from a few weeks back?

Insurers That Filed Wrong Rates Told By CMS They Can't Sell Plans Through Mid-November

An issuer whose final CMS-approved rates don’t account for the loss of cost-sharing reduction payments is being told by the agency that they won’t be able to sell plans until healthcare.gov data is refreshedeven though this would mean the carriers are even more crunched for time to sell their plans during the shortened open enrollment period.

UPDATE: It looks like this issue may be limited to a single carrier in New Mexico; I've changed the headline and graphic accordingly...but it might be an issue in other states as well; if so I may have to change it back again...

Fantastic (if migraine-inducing) scoop by Susannah Luthi of Inside Health Policy (paywall):

Insurers That Filed Wrong Rates Told By CMS They Can't Sell Plans Through Mid-November

An issuer whose final CMS-approved rates don’t account for the loss of cost-sharing reduction payments is being told by the agency that they won’t be able to sell plans until healthcare.gov data is refreshed– even though this would mean the carriers are even more crunched for time to sell their plans during the shortened open enrollment period.

Back in July, I had originally estimated the requested rate increases for New Mexico to average roughly 24.2% with partial Trump Administration sabotage or 37.2% with full sabotage (no CSR payments, full mandate enforcement threat). However, figuring out NM's approved rate hikes is proving to be frustrating.

On the one hand, they have a handy database lookup tool right there on the NM Insurance Dept. website, and they even have the actual premium amount listings for every plan from every carrier in every rating area available. Unfortunately, the premium listings don't give a year over year comparison (or an average percent increase), and the database tool seems not to have been fully updated as of this writing, making it kind of useless. I have some info for a couple of the individual carriers but even that's a bit confusing.

This just in...

New Mexico Health Connections, the nonprofit co-op insurance company formed under the Affordable Care Act, is selling its small group and commercial business to a for-profit company under a restructuring plan that will create a new insurance company that will be able to go after business the struggling nonprofit couldn’t.

...The Washington, D.C.-based Evolent will acquire NMHC’s 22,000 commercial members. NMHC will continue to exist with a few employees and presumably continue to sell individual policies on the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange. NMHC has 10,000 individual members through the insurance exchange.

...Hickey told ABQ Free Press that the deal will allow the new firm to go after business that NMHC couldn’t, things like Medicare Advantage, federal employees and, eventually, Medicaid. It also gives the new firm capital reserves that NMHC didn’t have, he added.

A week ago, Vox's Sarah Kliff reported that the Trump Administration was slashing the 2018 Open Enrollment Period advertising budget by 90% and the navigator/outreach grant budget by nearly 40%. As I noted at the time, the potential negative impact of these moves on enrollment numbers this fall--coming on top of the period being slashed in half, the CSR reimbursement and mandate enforcement sabotage efforts of the Trump/Price HHS Dept. and the general confusion and uncertainty being felt by the GOP spending the past 7 months desperately attempting to repeal the ACA altogether could be significant. In states utilizing the federal exchange (HealthCare.Gov), 2017 enrollment was running neck & neck with 2016 right up until the critical final week...which played out under the Trump Administration, which killed off the final ad/marketing blitz.

Result? A 5.3% total enrollment drop (or 4.7% if you don't include Louisiana, which expanded Medicaid halfway through the year) via HC.gov, while the 12 state-based exchanges--which run their own marketing/advertising budgets--saw a 1.8% increase in total enrollment year over year.

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