By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog
SANTA FE – After 10 days and with thousands of New Mexicans unable to log onto the federal website, state insurance officials have posted a static page, allowing people to at least get an idea about what Affordable Care Act options are available.
“For example, we’re putting up the rates available for (people) ages 30, 40, 50, 60,” Aaron Ezekiel, director of the ACA Implementation Projects for the New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance, told New Mexico Watchdog. “You can get some basic information. The idea is to provide a stop-gap.”
Since the ACA rolled out Oct 1, people in New Mexico — and 35 other states across the country — who want information on individual policies are directed to the www.healthcare.gov site.
But the federal website has turned back nearly everyone who has tried to establish accounts and get information on coverage and premium options.
For example, on three different occasions, between Oct. 1 and Oct. 8, New Mexico Watchdog was unable to get past the security questions on the www.healthcare.gov site. On Thursday night, NM Watchdog was turned back for a fourth time — 10 days into the Oct. 1 rollout.
By contrast, the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange website — www.bewellnm.com, which handles small businesses and their employees in the state but not individual claims — has reported signing up 558 employers and just fewer than 1,200 of their employees as new customers.
Friday morning, the www.bewellnm.com website posted this message:
The link takes potential customers to a page showing companies in New Mexico that offer individual policies and price listings.
But premiums and coverage plans depend on individual circumstances and require signing up with the ACA plan through the federal government.
The link “at least provides some basic information,” Ezekiel said. “It will not only have rates but also, for each plan, it will have little blocks to describe (what is offered) and a PDF of their summary of benefits.”
The federal plan has come under increasing criticism. In separate TV interviews earlier this week, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Treasury Secretary Jack Lew couldn’t say how many Americans have so far signed up.
Ezekiel downplayed the problems with the www.healthcare.gov site.
“Yes, I’d like it to be up,” Ezekiel said. “I’m very frustrated but this is trivial growing pains in the big picture … The truth is, people who want insurance are going to come back.”
Next year, the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange will handle individual policies, with enrollment starting in October 2014 and policies going into effect in January 2015.
“I am very hopeful and confident that a year from now — at least for New Mexicans — when (the NMIX runs things) that problem will no longer exist,” NMIX consumer advocate Dr. Deane Waldman told New Mexico Watchdog earlier this week. “At this point, all I can say is, ‘Sorry, but next year we’ll take care of you.’ ”
Contact Rob Nikolewski at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski
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