Affordable Care Act registration begins

PARKERSBURG – Regardless of the controversy surrounding the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, registration began Tuesday for people to sign up for the insurance exchanges.

Local health officials said help is available to people to navigate the process.

Representatives of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, the Good Samaritan Clinic and the Ritchie Regional Health Center in Harrisville held a press conference at the health department to answer questions on the health care act.

Over the last three years, WVFAHC has been educating the public on the Affordable Care Act, said Lisa Diehl, regional coordinator for North Central West Virginia for WVFAHC.

“We are here to talk about the open enrollment that is going to affect those who do not currently have health insurance,” she said. “Those people will have the opportunity, over the next six months, to find out more about the health insurance marketplace and get more information about what they may qualify for.

“As with most big programs, people are already finding glitches in the system. People were already anticipating glitches over the next week or so,” Diehl said.

There are around 170,000 uninsured people in West Virginia and many of them will be able to begin receiving health insurance coverage over the next three years under the ACA, Diehl said.

“Of that number, around 75 percent, or almost 128,000 people, are expected to get coverage in 2014,” Diehl said. “In Wood County alone, there are currently 11,579 uninsured people and we expect around 8,000 will be able to get coverage by 2016 under the Affordable Care Act.”

People can enroll for either Medicaid or the private insurance policies through the website, www.healthcare.gov, or through a call center at 1-800-318-2596 that will operate around the clock.

“We feel at West Virginians for Affordable Health Care that there has not been a greater public policy initiative in the last 45 years that will have a greater positive impact for poor and working West Virginians in expanding coverage,” Diehl said of the ACA.

Under the ACA, 18,000 young adults in West Virginia gained insurance coverage; more than 37,000 West Virginians on Medicare saved $33.6 million in prescription drug costs; 214,000 West Virginians were able to access pap smears, mammographies, flu shots and more as well as rebates, grants and other saving measures, officials said.

West Virginia’s 27 community health centers provided services to 380,000 people and received $53 million to provide more services, officials said.

Representatives will be available throughout the community to help people navigate the processes to become enrolled. As soon as the resources are available, officials said announcements would be made on how people can set up meetings with health officials.

In the meantime, personnel should be available through local Department of Health and Human Resources offices to assist people to navigate the process, officials said.

Lindsey Green, outreach and enrollment coordinator at the Ritchie Regional Health Center in Harrisville, has been trained in guiding people through the process.

“In Ritchie County, there are 1,686 individuals who are uninsured,” she said. “By 2016, we hope to get that number down to 521 individuals who are uninsured.”

Beth Strobl of the Good Samaritan Clinic, 418 Grand Park Drive, Suite 311 off Grand Central Avenue, said the clinic will be a location to help people navigate how to get enrolled.

“We will have someone in our clinic who can sit down and speak to you, one-on-one, if you have questions or to see if you or someone in your family qualifies,” she said. “We accept appointments at 304-834-3986.”

Dick Wittberg, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, said having an uninsured population has been a major concern in West Virginia for many years.

For many, their only means to obtain medical care is to go to the emergency room at a local hospital.

“They have no consistent source of health care,” Wittberg said. “That is something that changes as of (Tuesday).

“We are going to have 13,000-14,000 people in (the six-county area served by the MOVHD) that are now eligible for insurance through Medicaid. That is one out of every 10 people that walks the street,” Wittberg said.