CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginians who do not currently have health insurance will have to wait until Tuesday to see the specifics of the eleven possible individual health plans and four possible small business health plans Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield will offer through the state’s new health insurance exchange.
The exchanges are a key part of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.
Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said his group has tried, unsuccessfully, to make those possible plans available to the public for review sooner. “I find it regretful that they won’t release that information so people can begin to explore their options and understand what’s available and what the cost is and all those kinds of things,” said Bryant.
For the first time on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a report that provided general estimates of expected insurance prices through the federal exchanges in every involved state, including West Virginia.
There are three levels for possible plans: bronze, silver or gold. The costs and subsidies associated with those levels vary by state, age, income, marital status and other factors. Pre-existing conditions cannot be taken into account.
In West Virginia, the report estimated a family of four with an annual income of $50,000 would pay $789 a month in health premiums, through the exchange, before tax subsidies are applied. With credits, the monthly premiums are estimated at $282.
For a healthy, single 27-year old in the Mountain State, the monthly premium, through the health insurance exchange, would start at $176 a month before subsidies.
At this point, those are estimates.
Plan details will be available, starting on Tuesday, by calling 1-800-318-2596 or by going online to www.healthcare.gov. Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield is the only company that has agreed to provide coverage plans through West Virginia’s private health insurance marketplace.
In recent months, Bryant said his group has trained more than 800 people to be “community assisters” and help residents with the enrollment process.
“There’s not as much information out there as there needs to be and so they’re really interested in information and understanding what role they can play in this enrollment process,” he said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
Coverage through the exchanges will begin on January 1 when the Medicaid expansion, increasing eligibility up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, also takes effect.
Beginning next year, people who do not have health insurance will have to pay penalties to the Internal Revenue Service.
The Offices of the state Insurance Commissioner project that, over the next three years, the percentage of uninsured West Virginians will drop by 70 percent because of the changes. The current number of uninsured people in West Virginia is estimated at 246,000.