NM exchange insurance below national average

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico’s health insurance marketplace, which starts enrolling consumers next week, will offer medical coverage plans costing less than the national average, according to a new federal report.

Uninsured New Mexicans and small businesses can begin next Tuesday to shop for health plans through the state’s newly established health insurance exchange.

A report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said individuals in New Mexico will pay an average of $282 a month for a mid-range insurance plan considered a benchmark by the federal government. That’s lower than the national average of $328. Those costs are before people apply any tax credits they may be eligible to receive.

Consumers can select from plans with a range of coverage called bronze, silver, gold and platinum. The least costly or bronze plans will require people to pay more out-of-pocket expenses.

With New Mexico having among the highest poverty rates in the nation, it’s important to keep insurance premiums affordable through the exchange, said Barbara Webber, executive director of Health Action New Mexico.

“I think that competition worked in this case,” Webber said of the premiums for plans to be offered through the exchange by five private insurers.

According to the federal report, premiums for the lowest cost silver insurance plans will average $275 a month for individuals in New Mexico compared with $310 nationally.

The lowest cost bronze plans will average $217 monthly — about $32 less than the national average for similar coverage.

Bronze plans are to cover about 60 percent of health care costs on average, with 70 percent coverage for silver plans.

Tax credits can make a significant difference in the cost of insurance.

For a family of four with an income of $50,000, according to the federal report, the second lowest-cost silver plan will average $672 monthly in New Mexico before credits are used. The price drops to $282 a month with the subsidies, however.

Webber said it’s not surprising that New Mexico’s premiums are lower than many other states, but she also credited New Mexico’s insurance regulator for vetting the rates submitted by insurers for plans to be available through the exchange.

“The fact is things are not going to be as expensive here as let’s say Boston, where things are going to be crazy,” she said.

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Follow Barry Massey on Twitter at https://twitter.com/bmasseyAP

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