Health exchange opens Farmington office

Joshua Kellogg
Enrollment counselor Ginger Lewis answers the phone on Friday at the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange's Farmington Enrollment and Assistance Center.

FARMINGTON — The New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange has opened an office in Farmington to help residents sign up for coverage during the exchange's open enrollment period.

The Farmington office, located at 1305 E. 20th St., is one of five the exchange is operating throughout the state.

BeWellNM, the state’s health insurance exchange, and the New Mexico Primary Care Association are operating the offices. Staff at the offices can provide assistance for people who are interested in enrolling in the exchange, and they can educate those already enrolled about plan changes.

This is the first year the exchange has operated offices in Farmington, Gallup, Las Cruces and Santa Fe, said Debbie Rochford, member services and outreach director for the New Mexico Primary Care Association.

Last year, there was a single office in Albuquerque. Rochford said the association expanded offices to other cities after the success of the Albuquerque center during last year’s enrollment period.

The other offices are located in communities where information about the exchange has not been as well-known, Rochford said.

Paperwork sits out on Frida at the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange's Farmington Enrollment and Assistance Center.

The offices opened Nov. 1 and will remain open until the end of the enrollment period on Jan. 31, 2016.

Walk-ins are accepted, and people can schedule an appointment to meet with a representative to discuss their options for enrolling themselves and their families.

The Farmington office also has a representative who speaks Navajo, Rochford said.

Applying for health insurance for the first time can be intimidating, Rochford said, and talking to a representative one-on-one can help people who feel overwhelmed by the BeWellnm website.

A representative can guide people through available plans and help them evaluate premium costs and health care providers associated with different plans.

Rochford said a meeting with a representative can take an hour to 90 minutes. She recommended people call 1-855-996-6449 to schedule an appointment.

Paperwork, such as income information for those covered under the plan, a photo identification and Social Security information are required to register.

Enrollment counselor Ginger Lewis moves a banner outside the New Mexico Health Insurance Exchange's Farmington Enrollment and Assistance Center on Friday.

Those already enrolled in the exchange can visit an enrollment center or check the BeWellnm website to see if their plan has changed.

“There are a lot of changes with plans that are advantageous to the consumers to look at,” Rochford said.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Mexico left the health insurance exchange this year after the state denied the company’s plans to increase its rates by more than 50 percent.

The exchange is also no longer offering preferred provider organization, or PPO, policies and is offering new health maintenance organization, or HMO, policies instead.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.