With Thousands Without Health Insurance, West Virginia Nonprofits Kick Off ACA Enrollment

January 29, 2024

Nonprofits in West Virginia are joining forces to assist individuals in enrolling in healthcare insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The WV ACA Navigator program and the nonprofit West Virginians for Affordable Health Care held a meeting in Charleston to kick off the open enrollment period for ACA Marketplace Plans. The enrollment period begins on November 1 and runs until January 15. The organizations emphasized the importance of having health insurance and discussed the various options available for enrollment.

Ellen Allen, Executive Director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, highlighted the different choices individuals have when enrolling in affordable care insurance. She mentioned the possibility of changing existing coverage, securing new coverage, or exploring more affordable options through the Marketplace for those with Employer-Based policies that consume a significant portion of their household income.

Jeremy Smith, Program Director of WV Navigator, encouraged people to examine the new plans and prices released this year. He stressed the importance of seeking help with enrollment or renewal, as the abundance of options can be overwhelming and some online plans may not provide adequate coverage. Smith stated that many individuals may be eligible for substantially lower costs this year if they obtain their plans through the Marketplace.

Having healthcare insurance, including medical, vision, and dental coverage, is associated with improved access to care, lower death rates, and better health outcomes, according to West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. However, navigating the health care market can be complex, with premiums varying based on factors such as household income and zip code. Allen emphasized the need to seek guidance from experts to navigate the process effectively.

West Virginia has the 34th highest rate of uninsured individuals in the country, with approximately 107,000 residents, or 6.8% of the population, lacking coverage. Allen attributed this to factors such as the absence of Employer-Based insurance, ineligibility for Medicaid due to income, and unaffordable ACA premiums in the past. Nevertheless, Allen noted that the ACA, along with policies like the American Rescue Plan and the Inflation Reduction Act, has made health care more affordable, bringing West Virginians closer to achieving universal coverage.

In addition to facilitating enrollment in ACA Marketplace Plans, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care strives to make health care more affordable and accessible by addressing policy barriers. Allen emphasized the importance of hearing from consumers about the challenges they face in accessing health care and collaborating with lawmakers to improve policies.

All Marketplace Plans provide coverage for ten essential health benefits, including prescription drugs, emergency services, and hospitalization. They also offer free preventative health services and coverage for pre-existing conditions. Allen advised individuals wishing to have coverage starting on January 1 or to ensure coverage in 2024 to enroll by December 15. She recommended contacting the navigator early to simplify the process and select the appropriate plan to avoid paying for unnecessary coverage while ensuring financial protection in case of unexpected events.

To enroll in the ACA Marketplace, individuals can call 1-844-982-2731 or visit Enrollment is also available at Allen reminded individuals aged 65 or older that open enrollment for Medicare has also begun. Navigators can provide assistance with Medicare enrollment, and individuals can contact the State Health Insurance Assistance program at 1-877-987-4463.