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New Mexico to continue using federal exchange

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 25, 2014 at 1:20 pm •  Published: July 25, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — New Mexico decided Friday to stick with a federal online system for another year to enroll individuals in health insurance plans.

The state's health insurance exchange governing board voted 11-1 to continue using the federal computer system for determining eligibility and to enroll individuals starting in November when the next open enrollment begins.

A majority of board members worried that New Mexico wasn't ready to switch to a state-run online system for individuals. Any technical failures could delay enrollment and discourage consumers from trying to obtain health coverage, they said.

Continuing with the federal system for another year is the "safest, most risk-free" way of enrolling New Mexicans, New Mexico Health Connections CEO Martin Hickey said.

Small businesses have been using the state system since October.

The exchange serves as online, one-stop shopping center for individuals and businesses to buy health coverage from private insurance companies. Premiums are subsidized for low- and middle-income residents.

New Mexico has been using the federal online system since the state launched its exchange last year. However, technical problems plagued the startup of the federal system.

Board vice chairman Jason Sandel of Farmington supported moving to the state online system.

"If we wait for perfection, we will never get anything done," Sandel said.

He expressed frustration that the state would remain subject to federal decision-making on enrollment and exchange operations "rather than being in control of our own future."

Exchange staff and its technology vendors said testing of a beefed-up online system was underway, and the state's computer operation for individual enrollment should be ready by November.

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