An estimated 85,000 New Mexicans will see their Medicaid coverage end when the federal government lifts the public health emergency that’s been in place during the coronavirus pandemic.

State officials are working to ensure nearly all of them are shifted to other medical plans, including subsidized policies offered through the state’s health insurance exchange.

“Our goal is to keep all the folks covered,” said Nicole Comeaux, New Mexico’s Medicaid director.

Like other states, New Mexico received extra federal dollars for Medicaid through a COVID-19 relief plan in return for keeping new patients enrolled until the declared health emergency was officially called off.

State health officials estimate 85,000 patients will be deemed ineligible for Medicaid when the health emergency ends, but they’re confident about half will move to employer-sponsored medical plans and half will enroll in plans offered through the health exchange, known as beWellnm.

About 5,000 pandemic enrollees will qualify for reduced Medicaid coverage.

Nationally, health authorities call the upcoming transition an unwinding. State officials refer to it as the Medicaid roll-off.

Before the pandemic, the state received $3.50 in federal money for every dollar it invested in Medicaid; the federal match increased to about $4.70 under the emergency declaration, Comeaux said.

The two largest groups who joined the rolls during the pandemic are families with “very low” incomes and adults whose earnings are 138 percent or less of the federal poverty level, she said.

The Biden administration is signaling it will make one final 90-day extension of the health emergency in mid-April, so the transition of ineligible Medicaid members must be underway by summer, Comeaux said.

At a beWellnm board meeting Friday, Jeffery Bustamante, the health exchange’s CEO, said the goal is to get all patients who lose Medicaid coverage and qualify for plans through the exchange enrolled in insurance policies. The exchange largely serves self-employed workers and their families and others who don’t receive medical coverage through their employer. It also offers group coverage for workers at some small businesses.

“This is without a doubt an aggressive goal,” Bustamante said. “But this is a once-in-a-lifetime moment for the exchange, where we have people who are eligible and willing to sign up for a public program.”



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