NM health exchange tries to ease problems with Obamacare website

By Rob Nikolewski on October 11, 2013
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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 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 , told . “You can get some basic information. The idea is to provide a stop-gap.”

STOP GAP: To ease problems people have experienced with the troubled federal health care website, officials in New Mexico have linked to a page that gives customers a chance to at least get an idea what’s being offered.

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 site.

But the 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 site. On Thursday night, NM Watchdog was turned back for a fourth time — 10 days into the Oct. 1 rollout.

By contrast, the website — , 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 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, and how many Americans have so far signed up.

Ezekiel downplayed the problems with the 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 and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

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