State DHHR offices to help people apply for insurance
10/02/2013 - The Exponent Telegram. By Erin Beck.
Several options are out there for uninsured West Virginia residents who need help navigating health insurance enrollment as Obamacare rolls out.
Application assisters, or workers trained to help the uninsured understand their options and health insurance basics, will be in county DHHR offices by Monday, according to Jeremiah Samples, DHHR assistant to the cabinet secretary.
They will be available during normal business hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the open enrollment period until the end of March, according to Samples.
After that time fewer assisters will be available.
Consumers can also check out their options by going to the federal website, healthcare.gov; or calling the federal call center at 1-800-318-2596.
But the uninsured only have one option when it comes to companies to sign up with, and that’s Highmark BlueCross BlueShield.
Because of that, and because some of the uninsured will still have a hard time reaching help despite the options for assistance available, significant barriers to health insurance access continue to exist, according to DHHR officials.
Despite lack of company competition, cost will still be the impetus for enrolling through the marketplace for many of the uninsured, according to Samples.
“The number one reason for a consumer to go through the exchange without question is that you can access subsidies,” he said.
The amount of the subsidy, and whether it’s even available, depends on the consumer’s situation, including income and age.
DHHR is planning for 100 assisters throughout the state, according to Samples.
If consumers have questions, such as “what is a copay?” or “what are deductibles?” assisters can walk them through the process, Samples said.
“They can’t tell a consumer what plan to select,” he said. “They can assist them in assessing what their options are.”
Because some residents lack transportation or Internet, the call center may be the only option for some rural residents, Samples said.
Federally funded workers, called navigators, are supposed to be stationed around the state as well, but not all the locations aren’t yet known.
A Clarksburg-based company that was supposed to participate in the navigator program, West Virginia Parent Training Inc., backed out after receiving a letter from Attorney General Patrick Morrisey directing it to answer 26 questions about the group’s personnel and hiring practices, the Sunday Gazette-Mail reported.
Companies selected after that business backed out, including TSG Consulting and The National Healthy Start Association, haven’t hired yet, according to the Charleston Daily Mail.
Consumers with questions can also reach out to Highmark directly, according to Fred Earley, president of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia.
Highmark is offering 11 plans to choose from, labeled as “gold,” “silver,” “bronze,” and a catastrophic plan with very limited coverage.
Earley advised uninsured consumers to consider all resources, including Highmark employees, the call center, the federal website, assisters and navigators.
“There are a lot of sources that people can go to, ” he said. “They should access all those resources that they feel best suits their need.”
After consumers enroll in new health insurance plans, coverage could begin as soon as Jan. 1, according to a press release.