Medicaid expansion means more qualify for coverage

By Emily Crowe

ecrowe@cnjonline.com

With the recent expansion of Medicaid coverage in New Mexico, more residents than ever can now gain access to health care coverage.

The state’s expanded Medicaid program, known as Centennial Care, is a joint state-federal program under the federal Affordable Care Act. It offers health care coverage to patients age 19 to 64 who meet income guidelines.

A single adult earning less than $1,321 monthly qualifies for the program. For a family of two, the income limit is $1,784 monthly.

“Once a child would turn 19, they were automatically dropped,” said Mary Marez, a financial counselor with Plains Regional Medical Center. “With the doors being opened, there’s more opportunity for people to sign up. As long as they meet the income guidelines, they would be able to be put on Centennial Care.”

In September, Gov. Susana Martinez estimated that 170,000 adults throughout the state would gain coverage by 2020.

According to Plains Regional Medical Center Administrator Hoyt Skabelund, it’s still too early to tell what kind of impact Medicaid expansion has had on the hospital, but he has seen people enrolling in the program.

“We’re big supporters of expanding coverage for everyone in the community,” he said.

Skabelund said one thing he has seen recently has been a decrease in the volume of patients seeking elective medical care nationally, such as surgery and X-rays, mainly due to the increasing cost.

“Our anecdotal belief,” Skabelund said, “and when we talk to patients, is that now a lot of the insurance products that employers are buying or are available on the insurance exchange have high deductibles.”

Larry Leaming, president of Roosevelt General Hospital, also said it is hard to tell what impact the introduction of expanded Medicaid has had on the establishment.

He said it may take time for them to see the effects of the expansion because it’s fresh.

While Skabelund said it’s too soon to tell if Medicaid coverage will eventually lead to an increase in patients at PRMC, he said the ongoing issue of doctor shortages in the area is not yet a concern.

“We continue to have capacity in our clinics,” he said. “We are near capacity, but we have capacity.”

Marez and other representatives at PRMC are available to help residents register for both Medicaid and Affordable Care Act coverage.

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