June Leffler Published

Health Insurance Sign-Ups Open On Federal Marketplace

Despite recent changes in insurance policy, some patients say doctors and insurers are charging them upfront for video appointments and phone calls — not just copays but sometimes the entire cost of the visit, even if it's covered by insurance.

West Virginians can sign up once again for health insurance through healthcare.gov.

In previous years, there was only a six-week sign-up window for an insurance plan. In light of the pandemic, President Joe Biden has kept the marketplace open for most of 2021.

The current enrollment period lasts until Jan. 15 of next year.

Anyone who doesn’t have health insurance through their employer or a public program, like Medicaid, can purchase a plan through the federal marketplace. It has offered subsidized insurance since 2013, following the passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

With COVID-19 relief funding, plans are now more affordable than ever, supporters said.

“The rates are better than they’ve been in a long time,” said Jeremy Smith with WV Navigator, a non-profit that helps people sign up for coverage. “This year is really special.”

Smith said those who earn higher incomes and who may not previously have qualified for the marketplace now have options, too. That would include single people who make $50,000 or less a year.

About 18,000 West Virginians currently get health coverage through the marketplace, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

“If you do not have health insurance, you are one serious injury or one serious illness away…from having to spend all your life savings or having to file bankruptcy,” said West Virginia Insurance Commissioner Allan McVey.

For assistance choosing a plan, West Virginians can reach out to the non-profit WV Navigator at 304-356-5834. Through funding from the American Rescue Plan, the organization has been able to open more locations and hire more staff.

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.