The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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August 26, 2013

AG Morrisey says W.Va. not ready for health care rollout

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — West Virginia will have a “huge problem” in meeting an Oct. 1 deadline to begin open enrollment under the new federal health care reform law, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said.

Morrisey told the State Medical Association’s annual conference on Saturday at The Greenbrier resort that federal delays will make it difficult to implement the Affordable Care Act in the state.

“We are not ready to roll out the ACA on Oct. 1, let me be clear about that,” Morrisey said.

The Charleston Gazette reports Morrisey cited a recent congressional report that found half of 82 federal deadlines related to the Affordable Care Act have been missed. The federal government has delayed for a year a mandate requiring large employers to offer health benefits or face financial penalties and a policy that puts a cap on patients’ out-of-pocket insurance expenses.

Morrisey said that while Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the DHHR are working feverishly to have a successful implementation, “they’ve been dealt an impossible hand.”

“How on earth can you expect them to do really positive things when you’ve got half of the ACA deadlines (that) are not being met? This is what we’re dealing with; this is a huge problem.”

Morrisey and 12 other attorneys general recently wrote to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius about their concerns with the federal program.

U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller recently announced more than $642,000 in federal funding is on its way to West Virginia to help residents learn about the Affordable Care Act. Most of the funding is headed to West Virginia Parent Training and Information of Clarksburg to help people with limited literacy, disabilities and in rural areas. The remainder is going to Advance Patient Advocacy of Charleston to work with medical centers.

Morrisey said online training for some navigators is not available but might be soon.

“That leaves a minimal amount of time to get everybody up to speed,” Morrisey said. “That’s a serious problem, especially when you have individuals that are going to be touching consumers in our state.”

Morrisey said he also was concerned that federal rules do not mandate background checks or fingerprinting for navigators.

Morrisey suggested the state take legal action if enrollment doesn’t go well between October and March.

In May, Tomblin announced that West Virginia would extend Medicaid coverage to an estimated 91,500 uninsured low-income residents under the health care overhaul starting next January.

Currently, about 183,000 West Virginian residents are enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program. This number is expected to grow to about 277,000 by 2016, according to an actuarial report commissioned by the state Insurance Commissioner’s office.  

The report concludes that expanding Medicaid while following other provisions of the federal health care law eventually will reduce the ranks of the state’s uninsured from 246,000 West Virginians to around 76,000.

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