The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

May 11, 2013

State health care group happy with Medicaid expansion

By Wendy Holdren
Register-Herald Reporter

BECKLEY — Now that Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has approved the Medicaid expansion plan, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care (WVAHC) plans on educating the public on who is eligible, what is available and where to sign up.

Doris Selko, WVAHC Southern Regional coordinator, said this expansion plan will benefit many West Virginians.

“We are so excited and we would like everyone to thank the governor for approving this plan. The number of the people it will help outweighs the number against it.”

In Tomblin’s announcement, he estimated that 91,500 uninsured low-income residents would be eligible for coverage under the expansion.

Selko said that in Raleigh and Fayette counties alone, over 17,600 people are uninsured.

“Being uninsured is more than an inconvenience. People without insurance live sicker and die earlier than those with insurance.”

An estimated 18,000 Americans die prematurely because they lack insurance coverage, which translates into four preventable deaths every week in West Virginia due to being uninsured.

Selko said other benefits of being insured include a push for prevention versus treatment later, as well as “not getting a Band-Aid for something that needs stitches.”

“We’re just thrilled. This is such a wonderful thing for so many people.”

She said that she believes the Medicaid expansion will do for adults what the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) did for kids.

Enrollment begins Oct. 1 this year for uninsured state residents who qualify and coverage under the new health plans will begin as early as Jan. 1, 2014.

The Affordable Care Act will establish a new Health Insurance Marketplace for people to find out what they are eligible for and apply for the plan that’s right for them.

Eligible residents can apply online, with in-person assistance, by phone or by mail, and Marketplace will then show available options.

Four types of coverage are:

-- Medicaid, which covers everyone who lives in West Virginia, is a U.S. citizen, is under age 65, and earns less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL)

-- CHIP, which is available for income-eligible children; current enrollees who are in families with income below  138 percent of FPL will be transferred to Medicaid

-- Private health insurance plans, which will compete to sell “qualified health plans” and make premiums, deductibles and co-pays more affordable

--  The Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP), which enables business with fewer than 50 full-time employees to purchase qualified health plans.

Assistance will be available to help qualified individuals and families enroll, including a toll-free call center, insurance agents, navigators, in-person assisters, certified application counselors, Department of Health and Human Resources employees, as well as community assisters.

“Many are unsure of what’s going on. We really see our role over the next months getting all the information about that we can,” Selko said.

For more information, contact Selko at 304-673-0132.

— E-mail: wholdren@register-herald.com