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Virtual health insurance enrollment help available through WV Navigator

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Help with plan enrollment for 2021 on West Virginia’s health insurance exchange includes a virtual option by necessity this year.

Because one-on-one meetings utilized statewide in the past are being discouraged in the coronavirus pandemic, WV Navigator — a free service — has shifted to an online assistance method like Zoom alongside enrollment help that’s also available by phone.

“It’s the closest thing that we have to being able to meet with somebody in person,” said Jeremy Smith, program director for WV Navigator.

“We really think that this is a great alternative. It’s a great way to be safe but still get really good help as you try to navigate this process of signing up for a health insurance plan.”

In previous years, navigators had been able to host walk-in enrollment events or hold in-person office hours.

That is not the case in 2020.

The enrollment deadline is Dec. 15, 2020 for coverage to start of Jan. 1, 2021 when premiums are paid.

The exchange was created in the Affordable Care Act and offers potentially subsidized health insurance plans via healthcare.gov to people without other health insurance options like an employer plan or Medicare

After Dec. 15, enrollments will only be available in cases of life-changing events.

Last year, eight in ten applicants qualified for financial help in obtaining health care coverage in the form of credits.

“The whole process usually takes anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour to go over the plans, the prices and get the application done with you,” Smith said.

“We know that a lot of people might be shopping for health insurance, maybe for the first time ever. They might be used to getting it through their job and, if they’ve recently lost a job due to the pandemic, they may not really know how to go about shopping for a health insurance plan, so our program is a great resource for folks just to walk you through the process.”

WV Navigator, a nonprofit enrollment assistance group, is funded with grant money from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

“It can be extremely confusing for people and really hard to shop for health insurance so we really want people just to reach out to us so we can explain the whole process and make sure you have all the information you need,” Smith said.

Appointments for free assistance from WV Navigator either virtually or by phone can be made by calling (304) 356-5834.

Additional information is available online at www.wvnavigator.com.

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