CHARLESTON, W.Va. — For a fifth year, those with West Virginia Navigator are preparing to offer help to West Virginians enrolling for the first time or re-enrolling for health insurance plans on the marketplace, created in the Affordable Care Act, starting later this fall.
The enrollment period for the coverage year that begins Jan. 1, 2021 for people who don’t have other health insurance options like employer, Medicare, Medicaid or Veterans Affairs plans opens Nov. 1 and continues through Dec. 15 via healthcare.gov.
Typically, Jeremy Smith, program director for West Virginia Navigator, said navigators assist some of the same people seeking coverage on the marketplace exchange each year.
2020 will likely change that.
“With COVID-19 hitting over the past year, we know that thousands of people in West Virginia have lost their employer-based insurance,” Smith said.
“We know that there’s this whole new group of people that need health insurance and probably have no idea what options are available to them because they’ve never had to worry about it.”
Last year, about eight in ten West Virginians enrolling for marketplace coverage with either CareSource or Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield qualified for subsidies on the insurance marketplace, according to Smith.
Without some kind of life-changing event, enrollment is only available during the six-week open enrollment period.
“We really anticipate being very busy and having to be able to educate a brand new group of people this year as they try to figure out what healthcare options are available to them,” Smith said.
Navigators are able to discuss plan options and pricing with residents and can also help complete enrollments over the phone.
There are no fees for the assistance from West Virginia Navigator.
To prepare, telephone appointments with navigators, to take place once the enrollment period begins, have already started to be made. The numbers to call for an appointment are 304-356-5834 or 844-WV-CARES.
Most in-person enrollment outreach events won’t be held this year because of COVID-19 protocols.
Instead, West Virginia Navigator is also offering a telehealth option for appointments.
“People will be able to see us and we can see them and we can share our screen and kind of go through the plan options with them so, as long as somebody has a home computer with a webcam, this is going to be a great option for them,” Smith said.
“I really think that it’s going to be the most like being in person that there is.”
First Choice Services launched West Virginia Navigator, a grant-funded program, in Sept. 2015 as part of a cooperative agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.