CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In the first month of 2015, more than 31,100 people have individual health insurance plans from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield that was obtained through West Virginia’s federal exchange or directly from the company, as required by the Affordable Care Act.

During the second year of exchange enrollment, Fred Earley, president of Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield West Virginia, reported the process went much smoother than the bungled launch at the close of 2013.

“The functionality, the operability was much, much better. We’ve seen very heavy usage, particularly when it got up close to the cut-off periods, as you would guess,” Earley said of traffic at

For coverage to begin on Jan. 1, enrollments had to be completed by Dec. 15. The numbers from Highmark reflected enrollments up until Dec. 31.

It was not immediately clear exactly how many of those enrolled were new health insurance enrollees.

Those who have that coverage, though, are paying higher premiums — estimated at less than ten percent higher than 2014 rates, according to Earley.

“It was not one that we felt was clearly unwarranted,” he said in defense of the rate hike.  “It did fit the market.”

While marketplaces in other states include competition, Earley’s company is still the only company offering healthcare plans on West Virginia’s exchange, the marketplace for people who don’t have other insurance options like employer-sponsored programs or who are not eligible for Medicaid.

Kentucky Health Cooperative delayed entering West Virginia’s health insurance marketplace until later this year after initially planning to begin offering health insurance plans in the Mountain State last November alongside Highmark.

“When we set the rates, we did so with an eye toward having competition in the market,” Earley said of the rates that were filed last spring. “I would put forth the position that they are competitive rates because that’s how they were modeled.”

Earley was a guest on Monday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

The deadline for enrollment for health insurance without penalty is Feb. 15.

For 2015, the penalty for not having health insurance after that date has grown to 2 percent of yearly household income with the maximum being the national average premium for a bronze plan in the healthcare exchange or $325 per person for the year, $162.50 per child under the age of 18, up to a $975 maximum per family.

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  • Roaddawg

    Absolutely no reason for insurance rates to cost more than 50.00 bi weekly per family. Come to think of it, there is no reason a doctor, or even a specialist should be charging more than 20.00 per visit for 15 minutes of their time. I know they went to college but dang. The money is there, the big wigs just use it to buy boats, planes and private islands.

  • My Hind Leg

    I've had supplemental Medical Part C & D coverage through Highmark for several years and each year either the rates increase or the deductibles increase or co-pays increase or the benefit amount of some procedures decrease or some medication co-pays increases.
    When I enrolled, the premium was $78/month and escalated each year. 01-01-15, it raised 67%!
    This raise only lacks $11. of equaling what my premium was when I enrolled several years ago. Also, I did not receive any notification of this massive rate increase. Had I received notice, I certainly would have changed providers.
    No insurance provider should be allowed to raise a premium 67% , with one increase.

  • Bill Johnson

    Someone should really look at this. If you live in a state with competition, the rates are 15-20 percent lower. Most come in above 700 per month. WV is screwed again.

  • GregG

    I would love to know what the salary and benefits package of Fred Earley.

  • Aaron

    I don't know why anyone would not have insurance particularly if you were lower income given that you can get subsidies for out of pocket money including premiums and co-pays.

  • john

    Blame the higher rates on no competition here in the state. Exclusive rights to charge whatever this company wants. Poor setup!

  • Billy

    i wonder if that $325 per person is right. My better halfs cost $730.05 a month.