Health Insurance Marketplace faces difficulties
10/18/2013 - The Dominion Post. By Tom Terrarosa.
MORGANTOWN - The Health Insurance Marketplace was recently opened to the public in West Virginia. Officials said the application process is slightly more difficult than anticipated.
Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said there are several classifications for the individuals working to help people apply for health care.
“The enrollment process is a little more complicated than I would like,” Bryant said. “We were training people to assist so they can better help people to get through the process.”
He said most people who are computer savvy can navigate the process by themselves. For some who have never had insurance and may not know the difference between things like co-payments and deductibles, the process might be confusing.
According to Bryant, there are navigators, in-person application “assisters” and certified application counselors who all perform public education and help people with the enrolling process.
These entities all have essentially the same jobs but are funded from different places.
According to Jeremiah Samples, assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR), navigators are sub-granted through the federal government directly from the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Every state is required to have at least two navigators, but the problem, according to Samples, is the establishment funds for the ACA could not be used for these navigator positions, so other grants had to be allocated.
Samples said this caused the federal government to quickly set up the in-person assister program. In West Virginia, it is funded through the West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioner.
There are in-person assisters available at the DHHR offices in about 46 of 55 counties in the state. This incudes Marion County, but not Monongalia or Preston counties right now.
WVU Healthcare is receiving training as a Certified Application Counselor Organization, said Amy Johns, WVU Hospitals spokeswoman.
At the Patient Access Department of WVU Healthcare, counselors are being trained to help patients through the process, Johns said.
She said the idea is for people to be signed up prior to becoming hospital patients. If they are not, they will have counselors ready to assist with that process.
WVU Healthcare does not assist non-patients through the process at this time.
Johns said they have also been approved a navigator federal grant, but the funds are not in-house yet.
Both Bryant and Hughes noted that the DHHR has been successful in one aspect of the ACA—Medicaid auto-enrollment.
It sent out more than 170,000 letters to people who were signed up for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and qualified for Medicaid under the new rules, Hughes said.
According to Bryant, manyl people will now qualify for Medicaid who were previously ineligible.
The DHHR has received more than 50,000 responses to the letters. Those individuals who responded, as long as they qualify, will be automatically signed up for Medicaid in November.