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Massive Turnout for Medicaid Enrollment in Mountain State

April 1, 2014
By SARAH PLUMMER, Associated Press , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

CHARLESTON - On the final day to begin enrolling for health insurance under the new federal health care mandate, West Virginia has nearly doubled the projected number of individuals to sign up under the state's Medicaid expansion.

The total federal projection since Jan. 2014 in West Virginia was 63,000, said Jeremiah Samples, Department of Health and Human Resources assistant to the secretary. By Friday, 104,820 people had signed up, he said.

"It was hectic; We saw a significant increase in the number of folks seeking information about their options. Last week we had a surge in numbers and a higher volume of calls, but nothing we haven't been able to manage," said Samples.

Samples said the reason West Virginia nearly doubled the projected number of enrollment was by identifying potential participants using information on existing food stamps and Medicaid applications. Only one of four states with this kind of auto enrollment, the process garnered around 118,000 enrollees, he said.

"We think that was what drove the large number of people we have been able to sign up under the expansion," Samples added.

In addition to the expansion of Medicaid, subsidized private insurance plans are available in the Health Insurance Marketplace. The Offices of the Insurance Commissioner estimates the Affordable Care Act will be reduced from 246,000 to 76,000 by 2016.

Jason Butcher, communications director for the insurance commissioner, said Monday's deadline for enrollment was just another day of business as usual. Instead of a sharp increase over the last few days, there has been a steady pace.

Likewise, Paige Johnson, spokesperson for H.J. Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston, said the numbers of people calling or stopping by for assistance signing up have been "steady, but not dramatic." Several area hospitals, doctor's offices and DHHR offices have had individuals designated to answer the public's questions.

Butcher said West Virginia's enrollment target for Monday is 24,000. On March 1, only 10,599 people had selected a marketplace insurance plan, though 25,133 people had started the application process, have been deemed eligible for coverage, but had yet to enroll. Of those eligible for coverage through March 1, 15,965 were declared eligible to enroll with financial assistance.

 
 
 

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