- Associated Press - Monday, June 2, 2014

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - Some efforts to market New Mexico’s health insurance exchange appear to have been ineffective.

About 32,000 people in New Mexico had bought insurance on the federal exchange by the March 31 end of the open enrollment period. About 540 employees and their dependents from fewer than 150 companies had purchased insurance through the state exchange.

It’s hard to sell health insurance in any case, but efforts to enroll New Mexicans began much later than insurance-exchange officials planned.

Funds available for marketing went unspent, partly because of the marketing effort’s late start and partly because it wasn’t clear what the best use of the funds would be.


New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange Board Chairman J.R. Damron told the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/1nXKFwj) that the board didn’t have time before enrollment began to do the market research necessary to guide marketing efforts.

“We had enough money, but we didn’t have time to do the surveys and the proactive stuff that states like California and New York could,” he said. “They’ve been working on this for three years. We had five months.”

The New Mexico Primary Care Association had a contract with the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange to help enroll customers in insurance plans.

David Roddy, the association’s executive director, said that by the end of March, a promotional event sponsored by KOAT-TV turned up 11,000 people who asked for appointments to enroll in an insurance program. The association was able to contact 7,700 of them. Fewer than 600 actually bought insurance.

“The No. 1 reason people didn’t sign up was price,” he said. “The No. 2 reason was bad media.”

The news was full of problems with the federal exchange website, and it took months to launch media campaigns to counteract that news, Roddy said.

Insurance is complicated and hard to explain, and people who have done well without it don’t necessarily believe they need it. People are more likely to buy insurance when they’re dealing with health problems.

“There is a culture of un-insurance out there,” said Dick Mason, vice president of the League of Women Voters of New Mexico and the league’s expert on health-insurance exchanges. “People have gone generations without health insurance. The concept is just not there for them.”

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com