New Mexico is preparing for an ambitious future for health policy. Louise Norris notes that New Mexico is looking to move off of Healthcare.gov and open up their own state based exchange.
In order to reduce user fees, the exchange board considered the issue during a September 2018 board meeting, and voted unanimously to transition to a fully state-run exchange in time for the 2021 plan year.
The exchange will put out a request for proposals in early 2019, as they work to find a vendor to create their state-run enrollment platform. The system will be live by the fall of 2020, in time for the open enrollment period for 2021 coverage (November-December 2020).
There are two good reasons to go down this path. The first is the obvious one: it’s cheaper than using Healthcare.gov. Healthcare.gov charges 3.5% of premium as an Exchange fee for states that don’t do anything on their own, and a 3.0% of premium Exchange fee for states that manage significant elements of the enrollment process. New Mexico is one of the “partnership” states that uses the Healthcare.gov front-end but manages a lot of their own back-end. 3.0% of premium is not a good deal. The same fee level would either be used to fund significantly more outreach, advertising and navigators or the same level of outreach and support that Healthcare.gov provides could be funded at a much lower fee which would slightly reduce baseline premiums.
Secondly, New Mexico is getting ambitious. They are the leading innovators in doing the actual hard work of figuring out how a Medicaid buy-in proposal. This would be effectively a state based public option. This would be a major rejiggering of the New Mexico individual market.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has repeatedly stated under both the Obama and the Trump administrations that they can’t do much with the back-end of Healthcare.gov to support unusual or aggressive waiver requests. If New Mexico moves towards a Medicaid buy-in model, their open enrollment, subsidy structure and eligibility structures would be unique. The only way that can work within an Exchange framework is if New Mexico can customize the exchange that their citizens and residents see.
So, this is both an effort to reduce premiums through either attracting a healthier risk pool or lower costs of attracting the current risk pool AND a necessary step in building the infrastructure to support a Medicaid buy-in program.