HUNTINGTON — As West Virginians gear up to enroll, re-enroll or switch plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace, local agencies are available to assist and answer questions about which plan might be best.
The annual open enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace will run from Nov. 1 through Jan. 1, 2017.
West Virginians who need help enrolling or have questions about health insurance can take advantage of the free help that WV NaviCare provides by calling their Helpline at 1-844-WV-CARES to speak to a certified Health Insurance Navigator. In addition, WV NaviCare will have a representative available for free, in-person help at the Cabell Huntington Health Department, 703 7th Ave., in Huntington. An appointment is necessary and can be made by calling 1-844-WV-CARES. Representatives will be able to answer questions or provide enrollment help.
In addition to Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield, which has been part of the West Virginia marketplace since the beginning of the insurance exchange, West Virginians in 32 counties also have a new choice in CareSource.
“It’s great because it gives people more options to choose from,” said Jeremy Smith, NaviCare outreach coordinator. “I encourage people to look at all different plans available.”
Smith said even people who are already enrolled should look at new plans, because plans are changing.
“It’s really important to look at those little changes,” Smith said. “Deductibles are changing and ne2rks are changing. Ne2rks will influence deductible the deductible. I know it sounds confusing, but we want people to know we are here to help.”
Premiums are also increasing, with some experts expecting up to a 22 percent increase in some states.
Smith said premiums increases won’t increase that much in West Virginia and the increases won’t affect as many people.
About 86 percent of West Virginians qualify for an advanced premium tax credit, which helps pay for the premium.
“If you receive that, most subsidies will increase to offset those increases people are talking about,” Smith said.
The tax credit is based on family size and income, and only those who do not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, or do not have insurance through their employer, qualify for the credit.
Smith said the biggest barrier to people enrolling across the state is where people shop.
The Health Insurance Marketplace offers monthly subsidies for people to help pay for their insurance plans; however, you have to go through the Healthcare.gov website or enroll through the Marketplace call center to qualify.
Many West Virginians are trying to shop for insurance on a host of other websites and then end up receiving dozens of calls per day from insurance telemarketers that oftentimes do not sell insurance plans that meet the new federal guidelines or qualify as plans that consumers can get subsidies for. This results in people having to pay a penalty for lack of qualifying insurance.
The tax penalty for a lack of health insurance is now $695, or 2.5 percent of a person’;s annual income, whichever is greater.
More information is available at www.wvnavicare.com. That site includes resources for enrollment help, a calendar of enrollment events and an overview of facts and other information about health insurance, the Marketplace and the Affordable Care Act.
WV NaviCare is a federally grant funded project operated by First Choice Services.