New Mexico governor offers assurances on health coverage

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SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has offered assurances that people won’t be left without health insurance as President-elect Donald Trump and fellow Republicans seek to overhaul the Affordable Care Act.

Martinez was attending a meeting Wednesday of the Republican Governors Association in Florida, where GOP governors have discussed ambitions for a federal health care overhaul that could affect state health care exchanges that offer insurance policies as well as Medicaid, the nation’s main safety net health care program for the poor.

Martinez said Tuesday that she expected people to continue to enroll for insurance using health care exchanges as long as it’s the law and that insurance cannot simply be taken away. She said a transition to any new system will be needed ensure people are not left uninsured.

“I don’t know that there will ever be a turn off the switch, wait a period of time and then turn it back on,” said Martinez. “There is going to have to be a transition and not leave everyone uninsured.”

Changes to the Affordable Care Act may have major implications in New Mexico, where people have flocked to Medicaid since Martinez agreed to an expansion in 2014 and where other federal subsidies extend to three out of four uninsured applicants who use the state insurance exchange.

President-elect Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress are pledging to repeal and replace the 2010 legislation. It has reduced the nation’s uninsured rate to a historic low of about 9 percent.

In New Mexico, nearly 55,000 people had signed up for an insurance plan through the state exchange at the end of the last enrollment period in January.

Linda Wedeen, CEO of the New Mexico health insurance exchange beWellnm, said at least as many people appear to be signing up during the current open enrollment period.

More than 270,000 New Mexico residents have signed up for Medicaid since the state’s expansion began in January 2014.

Full- and part-time Medicaid enrollment exceeds 885,000 in a state of 2.1 million residents.

Some GOP leaders want to change Medicaid into a federal block grant program that gives states more control.

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