Media partners cover health exchange tension

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New Mexico In Depth partner KUNM-FM interviewed two NMID staffers earlier this week about tension between government agencies over the creation of the state’s health insurance exchange.

KUNM’s radio report is online today. You can listen here.

The station’s Elaine Baumgartel interviewed Bryant Furlow, the author of an NMID article about the exchange that ran in newspapers and on NMID’s website this weekend, and Trip Jennings, NMID’s executive director.

Furlow’s article revealed that, days ahead of an application deadline for $20 million in federal funding for the exchange, the N.M. Human Services Department seized control of the request from the state’s independent Division of Insurance.

Last-minute changes to the grant application included the replacement of the word “enrollment” with “marketing” in some cases. That has some advocates worried that New Mexico will emphasize marketing contracts over old-fashioned face-to-face time to spread the word to people who are eligible to use the exchange, a one-stop shop for people hunting for health insurance that could lower the uninsured rate in New Mexico.

Such face time is especially important, they say, when it comes to reaching out to rural New Mexicans and Native Americans who rely on personal contact.

After running NMID’s article, The Santa Fe New Mexican, another NMID partner, opined on the topic, stating that person-to-person outreach is crucial and NMID’s report “raises red flags.” From the op-ed:

“We live in a rural, far-flung state. Letting people know that health care is available and showing them how to sign up won’t be as easy as running advertisements on an Albuquerque TV station. Especially given that on remote Indian reservations or in Northern New Mexico villages or along the border, people tend to want to talk in person. They like the issues explained to them by someone they know and trust, not a stranger’s voice emanating from the television or radio. For the Affordable Care Act to work in New Mexico, it’s essential that the state gets folks signed up.”

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