Healthcare leaders speak on importance of enrolling in ACA plans during pandemic

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Healthcare officials in West Virginia say it’s more important and relevant than ever for residents to look for health insurance options in the Affordable Care Act’s marketplace as the enrollment period begins Sunday.

Leaders of First Choice Services’ WV Navigator Program, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care and West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy spoke Friday of how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape of healthcare in the state and the impact of enrollment with the pending federal lawsuit of Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“This is more relevant than ever as so many residents have been impacted by job and health insurance losses related to the COVID-19 economic and health crisis,” Kelly Allen, Director of West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy said during the virtual press conference.

Kelly Allen

“Amid an ongoing pandemic and the start of flu season, it’s more important than ever to have coverage even if you are healthy right now.”

Allen said at the peak of the job loss crisis and the recession earlier this year, an estimated 130,000 West Virginians lost their job-based healthcare coverage. That figure included both those who directly lost jobs and their insurance or people who were dependents of a family member.

The Supreme Court has scheduled an argument on ACA, also known as ‘Obamacare,’ Nov. 10. The argument by 18 state attorneys general, including West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey, and the U.S. Department of Justice is that the healthcare law is unconstitutional because Congress reduced the health care law’s individual mandate to zero in the 2017 tax law, as MetroNews has reported.

According to Jessica Ice, the Executive Director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, the lawsuit does not impact enrollment plans.

“It does not affect our options this year, it does not affect if you were to sign up for the marketplace your coverage for 2021. You’re signing onto a contract. They will cover you for the entire year regardless of what decision comes down,” Ice said.

Jessica Ice

She did say that the striking down of ACA would impact those with preexisting conditions. Ice noted that 600,000 to 800,000 West Virginians are suffering or live with a pre-existing condition.

Ice noted that plans previous to ACA did not benefit those with preexisting conditions.

“You could be denied coverage altogether. You could be charged more for your health insurance if you have a preexisting condition. The insurance could refuse to cover it or add a lifetime or yearly cap on the benefits they would give you,” she said.

Ice said the essential health benefits for someone with an ACA plan include coverage of prescription drug coverage, pediatric services which include dental/vision for kids, preventative and wellness checks each year, screens for things like diabetes, immunization and vaccines, emergency services, mental health/addiction services, pregnancy/maternity and newborn care, lab services, and rehab services.

The open enrollment period ends on December 15.

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