Obamacare numbers in NM slip 41.8 percent in January

A ROUGH MONTH: Officials at the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange hope a marketing campaign can help boost enrollment numbers after a drop of 41.8 percent in January.

By Rob Nikolewski │ New Mexico Watchdog

SANTA FE, N.M. – Monthly enrollment figures for individual policies under the Affordable Care Act in New Mexico dropped 41.8 percent between Jan. 1 and Feb. 1.

Despite the fall-off, officials at the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange hope a series of marketing strategies can help the exchange reach its goal of signing up 50,000 New Mexicans by March 31.

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department has released its numbers through Feb. 1 for all 50 states.

After signing up 6,754 people in New Mexico to individual policies in December, the number for January dropped to 3,932.

“I think that’s the national trend,” Debra Hammer, chief communications officer for NMHIX, told New Mexico Watchdog, pointing to the fact that enrollees faced a Dec. 31 deadline to sign up for their policies to go into effect by the start of 2014.

The next important deadline is March 31, which marks the end of the open-enrollment period.

“The next two months will be really telling,” Hammer said.

Thus far, 11,620 New Mexicans have signed up for individual Obamacare policies. Originally, NMHIX officials hoped to sign up more than 80,000 by March 31. But after the botched online rollout, which frustrated millions of Americans, the New Mexico goal was adjusted down to 50,000.

To reach that goal, more than 38,000 New Mexicans would have to sign up in the next two months. Is that realistic?

“We’re going to do our best,” Mike Nunez, the NHMIX interim CEO, said Friday. “Those are still our goals.”

Another goal — not only in New Mexico but across the country — is to lure people in the age 18-34 demographic to buy coverage. Without the “young invincibles,” the ACA won’t be financially viable in the long run.

In the past month, NMHIX has been running an advertising campaign aimed at young people. But the most recent figures from HHS show that, in New Mexico, most of the people signing up are older.

Some 59 percent of enrollees are 45 and older, which is six points higher than the national average; 37 percent of New Mexico sign-ups are between 55 and 64 — six points higher than reported for all states.

New Mexico’s numbers for enrollees between the ages of 18 and 34 improved slightly in the past month, from 18 percent to 20 percent.

“That’s the plus side,” Nunez said. “This is a different population to reach, and we’re really targeting them now in a unique and novel way.”

NMHIX is running more television commercials featuring young people, and the exchange is taking its marketing campaign on the road. Earlier this week, Nuñez said, his organization launched a “three-city release” that included talking to students at community colleges in Albuquerque, Roswell and Las Cruces.

The exchange is also targeting people who fall between 138 percent and 400 percent of the poverty level through direct marketing and “tele-town halls,” Nuñez said as the March 31 open enrollment deadline approaches.

“Those are our two focuses,” Nuñez said.

“I think we’re going to see a last-minute push,” Hammer said. “I think a lot of people are unaware of (the March 31 deadline).”

Here’s the breakdown for New Mexico enrollment numbers for individual Obamacare plans:

Contact Rob Nikolewski at rnikolewski@watchdog.org and follow him on Twitter @robnikolewski

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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