Posted: Aug 18, 2022 / 05:46 PM EDT

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WBOY) – Three West Virginia health care experts gathered at the Bridgeport Conference Center on Thursday morning to welcome the extended support for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace

The ACA was made possible by the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act, which was negotiated by U.S. Senator, Joe Manchin. The Inflation Reduction Act passed on Aug. 16, which will have many benefits, but a couple include healthcare costs lowering and Medicare expansion.

Expanded support for health care coverage through the ACA was included in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This made coverage accessible and affordable for millions in the United States.Had Senator Manchin not made an agreement on the Inflation Reduction Act, more than 13 million Americans would have faced higher premiums and lost health coverage altogether. About 18,000 West Virginians would have had to pay more for coverage, and at least 5,000 would have lost coverage. With the passing of this act, WV Navigator can continue helping people find coverage for the next three years

Experts mentioned that they gathered in Bridgeport because it is closer to Senator Manchin’s home, and they wanted to thank him for helping in the passing of the act. They also wanted everyone across the state to be exposed to what this will mean for their healthcare costs.

The three experts in attendance were:

  • Rich Sutphin, WV Rural Health Association Executive Director
  • Jessie Ice, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care Executive Director
  • Jeremy Smith, Program Director of First Choice Services and the ACA Navigator Program
  • Jim Wallace, director of the event

While Ice was talking in front of those who attended the conference, she discussed the work they have been trying to do. For the last year and a half, they have worked to pass provisions to lower the prescription drugs and health care costs. She said, “we were all on the edge of our seats on Tuesday waiting for this to be signed. Health care is the number one concern for voters, here in west Virginia. Health care is expensive, access is difficult, and any legislation that we can highlight, that we can pass, that our congress can get done, that our legislators can get done, will benefit all West Virginians.”

With this act, West Virginia will be able to have more affordable, accessible and equitable health care. Ice mentioned that it will provide 3.1 million people with coverage and force drug companies to give money back when costs go up. She also said that almost a quarter of West Virginia uses Medicare coverage and 49% of West Virginians skip taking medicine who are prescribed, due to costs.

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When Smith approached the podium to talk, he mentioned many statistics based around health care coverage. He said that “eight and a half percent of West Virginians under the age of 65 do not have coverage.”

The ACA Marketplace will have open enrollment for health insurance coverage starting November 1. If anybody has lost coverage due to employment changes or other reasons, you may be eligible to enroll before the first of November. WV Navigator offers free help in enrolling, you can find more information here.