SANTA FE, N.M. – New Mexico physicians today called on the state Legislature to support a proposal that would expand health care and provide coverage to nearly 100,000 New Mexicans. If passed and signed into law, House Bill 95 creates a checkbox on the state income tax form that an uninsured person can mark so that New Mexico’s health care exchange can assess whether they qualify for free or low-cost coverage and then connect them to those plans and programs.
“The Health Insurance Easy Enrollment bill is a win-win for New Mexicans, especially for young adults, underserved populations and indigenous and under-represented communities,” said Dr. Heather Applewhite, a family medicine physician in Albuquerque. “Simplifying the way we connect and enroll people into the health care plan they’re eligible for is a big step toward improving health and actually saving lives. When a person has a regular doctor or medical provider, they are more likely to manage chronic conditions that can become debilitating or in some cases, deadly. Diseases like diabetes and heart illnesses can be managed with treatment, therapy, education if they have the right medical support. A healthy New Mexico is a prosperous New Mexico and House Bill 95 is a step toward a stronger future for our state.”
Under HB 95, New Mexico’s health care exchange will reach out to individuals who check the easy enrollment option on their income tax form and outline their eligibility. A taxpayer who is assessed to be eligible for Medicaid will be referred to New Mexico’s Human Services Department. If the individual is eligible for low-cost and subsidized plans under Marketplace coverage, the health care exchange will connect with them to outline discount options. The tax filer will have a special enrollment period of several weeks to review their coverage options and enroll in the plan that is right for them.
“As a physician, I see people all the time who don’t have a doctor, and who also don’t have health coverage, and so they come to the ER but opt to not have the appropriate testing done,” said Dr. Aaron Snyder, an emergency medicine physician in Albuquerque. “Over 100,000 people in New Mexico could be seen sooner, have things taken care of earlier, and not have to pick and choose between certain medications in order to have those problems taken care of. This number includes thousands of children, young people, Indigenous people. New Mexicans deserve to be connected to quality health care access.”
In 2019, 187,000 New Mexicans were uninsured. Of those, about 30 percent were eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and 23 percent for subsidized exchange coverage for affordable quality plans, according to Urban Institute data for 2020. Nearly 100,000 of these individuals may not be aware of their eligibility for numerous reasons, including language barriers, education and literacy disparities, or time constraints that have discouraged certain populations from understanding the services available to them. Many more may simply believe their income is too high to qualify them for any assistance.
HB 95 protects privacy by requiring only information directly relevant to determine eligibility is used, such as age, income, household size and citizenship status.
If passed, New Mexico would be the second state to implement an easy enrollment plan. Maryland passed easy enrollment in 2019 and began phased implementation in 2021. Even with a limited scope from the first phase, more than 56,000 Maryland residents checked the box to determine their eligibility for free or low-cost health care coverage.