- Associated Press - Tuesday, June 27, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Insurance providers for New Mexico’s health exchange have proposed rate increases ranging from about 20 percent to 85 percent starting in 2018, though the requests are likely to be rewritten in coming weeks as Senate Republicans seek out health care reforms.

Details of the rate proposals were made available Tuesday on the website of the New Mexico Office of the Superintendent of Insurance, the agency that evaluates whether premiums are justified and checks that plans provide essential health benefits.

Private insurers on the federally subsidized exchange have been left guessing about key regulations that support the New Mexico marketplace, as Senate Republicans delayed voting until at least next week on a bill to scrap President Barack Obama’s health care law.

“Those rates really don’t mean anything because we’re all submitting a second round,” said Martin Hickey, CEO of New Mexico Health Connections, which submitted the 85 percent rate increase proposal. “It could be really dramatically different.”

Premium increases by dollar value were not immediately available. Subsidies may limit the impact of rate increases for low-income insurance subscribers. About 80 percent of consumers on the exchange receive a discount on premiums or assistance with out-of-pocket expenses such as copayments.

About 55,000 New Mexico sign up each year for federally subsidized insurance through the state exchange, known as beWellnm.

New Mexico has sustained a competitive health insurance exchange with four current private providers, as consumer options have dwindled across some other states.

Several elements of the Senate health care bill would reverberate through state insurance exchanges, including a proposal to end the tax penalty imposed on people who don’t buy insurance under President Barack Obama’s health law.

Molina Healthcare requested the smallest rate increase of 21 percent. Christus Health Plan proposed a 49 percent increase. Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico asked for a 25 percent increase.

Insurers that have submitted rate applications for the coming year can still exit the exchange until late August or early September.

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