SANTA FE, N.M. — New Mexico insurance regulators launched an online shopping tool Wednesday to help residents compare 2018 health care plans, with premiums scheduled to rise substantially on the state’s health exchange amid shifting federal subsidies.
Creators of the website said it provides a quick way to compare costs and benefits among a long list of plans available through the state’s federally subsidized health exchange — and off-exchange, directly through health insurance companies.
The tool includes an automatic estimate of eligibility for income-based tax credits that protect people of limited means from rising premiums.
Heather Widler, a spokeswoman for the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance, said the service also was designed to help people who don’t qualify for those subsidies — and will absorb the brunt of premium increases next year — by showing a broad selection of health care options.
Premiums for mid-level insurance coverage on New Mexico’s federally subsidized health exchange are increasing by an average of more than 35 percent for 2018.
The record-setting increase is partly a result of President Donald Trump’s decision to pull the plug on federal payments that reimburse insurers for reduced copays and deductibles they’re required to provide to people of modest means.
Roughly 46,000 people currently receive health insurance through the state’s health exchange portal, known as beWellnm. About 70 percent of those people receive subsidies. The exchange’s enrollment period runs from Nov. 1 through Dec. 15.
In all, 250,000 state residents are eligible for exchange coverage under the Affordable Care Act because they don’t get health care through an employer, Medicaid or other sources.
A guided tour through the shopping tool showed it provides estimates for the financial risks of a personal health crisis or a year of heavy medical visits. It can tell whether a favored doctor is included within each health network, and whether specific prescription drugs are covered in a plan’s formulary.
New Mexico’s insurance-shopping tool was created by the nonprofit Consumers’ Checkbook, which has provided similar online comparison guides to at least four other states and Washington, D.C. To provide the service for a year, the Office of the Superintendent of Insurance paid $190,000.
Eric Ellsworth, director of health data strategy at Consumers’ Checkbook, said the New Mexico website “is geared toward making it fast and ensuring that somebody within a few minutes can make a good and educated choice of a plan.”