Potential new health care law concerns UNM Care Program patients

Posted at: 09/29/2013 10:38 PM
Updated at: 09/30/2013 8:35 AM
By: Maria Guerrero, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Tens of thousands of Bernalillo County residents rely on the "UNM Care Program" for their health care needs.

But starting Tuesday--if the new health care law takes effect--they will need to seek out a new primary care.

UNM Care has been the sole health care provider for 27,000 Bernalillo County residents this year.

But there is a concern people in need will fall through the cracks.

"We're really not envisioning UNM Care being a primary coverage like it has, like it is currently," said Rodney McNease, who oversees financial assistance programs at UNM Hospital.

That means come 2014, everyone currently in the UNM Care Program will have to get their primary coverage through Medicaid Expansion or a Health Insurance Exchange program.

"We think with UNM Care about 3/4 of those folks would actually be eligible for Medicaid and the other quarter would be eligible for assistance under the Health Exchange," said McNease.

UNM Care will then become supplemental health care coverage for those in the program.

McNease says UNM Care will not be phased out in 2014.

People on Medicaid or a Health Insurance Exchange program will still be able to get some financial help from UNM Care.

"People that have some other kind of coverage as their primary coverage if that coverage maybe doesn't pick up all of their expenses or they have out of pocket costs that UNM Care would help with that," said McNease.

"They're choosing to ignore the population they're not serving," said Kati O'Donnell with Casa de Salud.

Patient advocates like O'Donnell feel the changes will continue to ignore those already not allowed in UNM Care: including undocumented and some documented immigrants.

"We're very concerned about the people who will not have any access, whose medical debt will continue to provide a stresser the family after January First," said O'Donnell.

Another big issue is whether the websites will be ready to go October First.

The Health Exchange website appears ready to go, said McNease.

But it is not known if the Medicaid website is ready.

That means, most of the folks UNMH says would be eligible for Medicaid, may not even be able to apply online on October First.

"We're not sure when the automated system will be up," said McNease of the Medicaid website.

The UNM Care Program is sending mailings out to everyone in the program to set up appointments for the new changes.

It is also holding community meetings to go over the changes.

UNM Care says it won't be able to see if those in UNM Care are eligible for Medicaid until "sometime in October."