Midnight Monday is the deadline to sign up for healthcare under the Affordable Care Act. Over the weekend in New Mexico people lined up to get covered, either through the insurance marketplace or Medicaid.
From those in their 60s to young people under 26 covered under their parents’ plan, hundreds stood in the bright spring sunshine sign up under Medicaid, or with one of four insurance plans.
“My name is Elizabeth Rodriguez, I’m 25 and I’ll be 26 this September, and I came here today because I need to apply for healthcare because I am a medical student; and if you do not have healthcare they don’t allow you to work in the hospital." Rodriguez starts her rotations in a month as a third-year medical student.
Rodriguez smiled as she noted she was navigating the healthcare.gov website by herself, but asking for help from professionals on hand at Christus St. Vincent when getting stumped. Christus patient access director April Mendoza pointed to seven guides and three Medicaid staff inputing individuals’ income as Monday's deadline was approaching.
“It takes anywhere between two to two and a half hours working with the client to actually establish an online account and then walking through the different plans that are available, and understanding what may be the best plan for them and what they can afford,” said Mendoza in a conference room at Christus that was abuzz with conversation.
Hal Fielding is a 58-year old IT expert and writer who had already spent time on Healthcare.gov before finishing the process with a navigator.
“The federal website was actually a lot better than I thought it would be," Fielding said. "It was real easy to go in, put in the income, 58, click on the detail – it takes you right to the company’s website. I hit on provider, I put in my doctor’s name, it shows up, I put in my dentist’s name, it shows up.”
Health Insurance Exchange navigator Linda Longacre said getting Fielding signed up took much less time because he’d already done some homework.
“Income is basically what we need," noted Longacre. She added that bringing in a tax return a good way to determine rates and credits for an individual.
The event wasn’t just for low-income working class people who wanted insurance, it was also a chance for previously uninsured but not Medicaid-eligible adults like 58-year-old Jan, who didn’t want to use her last name, to sign up. Jan was in the state indigent insurance plan that was phased-out in January, leaving her with no coverage. But the two grandchildren she is raising, are covered.
“I’ve been poor, I’m raising my granddaughters – 16 and 13 now – so they’re almost gone, but it’s been a tough 16 years," Jan said. " You know, I’d do it again in a moment, but it’s been very hard to take care of myself, and so this is my opportunity to do that.”
New Mexico has run behind other states in getting its 400-thousand uninsured covered. So far some 15-thousand have signed up. Last minute events are scheduled in New Mexico today, where face-to-face assistance is available, and people who have at least begun the process online by midnight will have a few more days to finish signing up that way.
Navigators who help people sign up in person are located throughout the state.