Health exchange officials on informational tour

By Emily Crowe
CNJ staff writer
ecrowe@cnjonline.com

Sam Gurule has been anticipating the health insurance changes coming to New Mexico.

“I had insurance in the past when I was employed,” he said. “Now I’m unemployed and I don’t have insurance, that’s why I’m looking forward to this.”

Gurule, who lives in Clovis, attended the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange BeWellNM regional tour Monday to learn more about the new health care laws and gain coverage under the newly enacted Affordable Care Act.

“I just want to get more information and so far, I haven’t heard too much new,” said Gurule, who also admitted to being disappointed in the system’s slow pace and glitches. “I did access the system for a little while. I didn’t sign up, but I just looked on it.”

Lisa Reid, senior liaison for health reform at the New Mexico Insurance Division, told attendees to have patience with the online system since the state is still working out issues.

According to Reid, the state hopes to enroll 80,000 individuals for new health insurance this year. Currently, there are approximately 450,000 uninsured individuals in the state of New Mexico.

Other representatives from the statewide initiative presented information on coverage levels, plan specifics and small business coverage to about a dozen local residents.

Representatives are holding meetings around the state, in conjunction with the New Mexico Association of Counties, to get residents up to speed on the coverage updates and changes.

Cheryl Simpson works in human resources for Quay County government, and said she and a coworker attended the meeting to get a better idea of how to talk to their employees about the benefits and what their choices are.

“Most of our employees won’t find a better plan through the exchange I don’t think, as far as being affordable,” said Simpson, whose employer receives insurance coverage through the state. “We’re just trying to be able to answer questions as they come up.”

Sonia Armijo, who works at La Casa Family Health Center in Portales, also acts as a state health care guide to provide information to consumers and help with enrollment.

Armijo said she has heard from more than 20 people in the last week with questions about coverage and where to go to get it.

“They’re looking for coverage, definitely,” she said. “There are a lot of people that are ready for coverage and they’re hearing about it so they’re asking a lot of questions.”

To sign up for coverage online, visit www.BeWellNM.com.