Associated Press Published

CareSource Expanded to 22 More West Virginia Counties

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A health insurer plans to offer coverage across more West Virginia counties next year, giving some people new options on the state’s health insurance marketplace.

CareSource said it will expand to 22 more West Virginia counties next year, the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported. The Dayton, Ohio-based insurer originally offered plans in 10 counties.

“We had intentions of growing our footprint in WV when we launched CareSource coverage in 2015,” Michael Ross, the company’s manager for the West Virginia marketplace, said through a spokeswoman. “We expanded this year, because we know consumers want more options and we believe in the benefits of our coverage.”

CareSource originally offered plans in Brooke, Cabell, Hancock, Kanawha, Lincoln, Marshall, Mason, Ohio, Putnam and Wayne counties.

Next year it will add plans in: Barbour, Boone, Calhoun, Clay, Doddridge, Fayette, Gilmer, Harrison, Jackson, Logan, Marion, Monongalia, Pleasants, Preston, Raleigh, Ritchie, Roane, Taylor, Tyler, Wetzel, Wirt and Wood counties.

The open enrollment period for the Health Insurance Marketplace will be Nov. 1 through Jan. 31, 2017.

West Virginia’s marketplace, setup under the Affordable Care Act, is a joint partnership between the state and the federal government.

West Virginians who don’t get insurance through employers may purchase insurance there. Two companies — Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and CareSource — offer plans on the exchange.

Rates for plans from both companies will increase this year, but subsidies from the federal government will increase to offset the increases, said Jeremy Smith, an outreach coordinator with WV NaviCare, a project funded by a federal grant and operated by First Choice Services.

Last year, 86 percent of West Virginians who bought insurance on the exchange were eligible for subsidies, Smith said.

Ross said the CareSource’s rates in West Virginia will increase “into the 35 and 40 percent margins.”

Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield has proposed an average rate increase of 31.82 percent, according to health insurance guide website

Cathy McAlister, a spokeswoman for Highmark, said the company remains committed to the Affordable Care Act and will continue to offer plans in all 55 counties in West Virginia. She did not say if the company would increase rates or what they might be.

“The West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioner plans to release information and rates toward the end of October — so, in the next few weeks,” she said in an email. “We will be happy to discuss our options in more detail at that time, but for now, this is all the information we have.”