By Steve Hansen
QCS Managing Editor
About half of Quay County adults under 65 who do not have health insurance could get it without cost, according to figures compiled by the New Mexico Primary Care Association.
The NMPCA is an organization of representing 20 primary health care organizations in the state, including Presbyterian Health Services, which operates the Dr. Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital in Tucumcari.
There are 1,495 adults ages 18 to 65 in Quay County who do not have health insurance, the NMPCA numbers show. Of these, 748 have income below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which qualifies them for enhanced Medicaid health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
For a family of four, 138 percent of the federal policy level is $36,668.50. For a couple it’s $21,403.80.
At least some of the remaining 747 of these adults could qualify to purchase health insurance at subsidized rates under the ACA.
Alberta Romero, NMPCA coordinator for Northern New Mexico, presented this information, along with information about how consumers can obtain health insurance to the Quay County Commission on Monday. The NMPCA is seeking the county’s cooperation in ensuring that eligible families in Quay County obtain health insurance to comply with the ACA.
The commission heard the report without taking action. Romero, however, did leave posters and literature to be posted and distributed in county offices to help families register to obtain health insurance.
Overall in New Mexico, Romero said, only about 200 households have obtained insurance out of 187,674 eligible adults who do not have it. The low turnout, she said, is as much due to lack of knowledge about ACA as it is to the computer problems and other troubles that have plagued federal registration nationally.
Many who are eligible, however, are likely to choose the fine of $95 or one percent of annual income, whichever is higher, next year rather than purchase health insurance, she said. By 2016, she said, the fines will rise to 2.5 percent of annual income or $695, whichever is greater.
In Quay County, she said, there is only one qualified health care guide, a person who has been qualified under the ACA to counsel potential insurance buyers about their options. The guide works at Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital’s business office.
Hospital Administrator Lance Labine said interested persons should arrange appointments through the hospital’s business office for health insurance counseling.
Other guides are in training at other agencies, Romero said.
In New Mexico, uninsured households whose income is lower than four times the federal poverty levels may qualify to buy insurance at reduced rates through the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange, or NMHIX, Romero said. For a couple, that level is $62,040. For a family of four, it is $94,200.
The exchange offers packages with varying percentages of covered costs from four different, competing health insurance providers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield New Mexico, Molina Health Care, Presbyterian Health Services and New Mexico Health Connections, a non-profit, competitive health plan alternative as required by the ACA.
Families who receive health insurance through the enhanced Medicaid program, called Centennial Care in New Mexico, can choose from Blue Cross Blue Shield New Mexico, Molina Health Care, Presbyterian and United Health Care Community Plan of New Mexico.
Households can find out what plans they may qualify for at the NMHIX website, www.bewell.com, or the federal website www.healthcare.gov. For Centennial care information and to sign up, families can visit www.yes.state.nm.us/selfservice or call (888) 997-2583,
Information about health care coverage under the ACA is also available by calling the business office at Trigg Hospital and setting an appointment with the health care guide at (575) 461-7000.
Information is also available by visiting the Income Support Division office at 421 W. Tucumcari Blvd. or contacting that office by phone at (575) 461-4627.