Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT ; Officials Urge Signup despite Hazy Future

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

AFFORDABLE CARE ACT ; Officials Urge Signup despite Hazy Future

Article excerpt

The deadline is approaching to sign up for a plan on the state's health insurance marketplace, even as the future of the Affordable Care Act is in question. Jan. 31 is the last day for people to purchase a 2017 plan on healthcare.gov.

"Obviously, a lot of people are nervous about the future of the insurance marketplace, said Jeremy Smith, a health insurance navigator. "A lot of people ask will they lose their coverage. We are definitely still encouraging people to sign up through the marketplace.

Smith works for First Choice Services, a Charleston-based nonprofit group that operates a federal grant to run West Virginia NaviCare, a health insurance enrollment program. The program helps people sign up for health insurance on the phone or in person.

President-elect Donald Trump has promised to repeal the Affordable Care Act and the Republican-led Congress last week took the first steps toward repealing it, approving a budget that paves the way for repeal. It's unclear yet what, if anything, Republicans plan to replace it with. Trump told The Washington Post last week that he's nearly done with a plan to replace the ACA with a law that aims for "insurance for everybody, though he didn't outline the details.

Republican leaders have also said they don't plan to take coverage away from the around 20 million people who have gained health insurance through the ACA, the Post reported, but how they will do that remains to be seen.

"I think obviously no one knows exactly what's going to happen but we don't anticipate anyone getting kicked off their insurance in the middle of the year, Smith said. "We're encouraging people to go ahead and sign up and we'll see what the future holds as far as the health insurance marketplaces.

The Jan. 31 deadline does not apply to Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, and eligible people can up for those year- round.

Those who sign up for an insurance plan by Jan. 31 would get coverage starting March 1, Smith said.

In West Virginia, two insurance companies offer plans on the state's exchange: Parkersburg-based Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield and Dayton, Ohio-based CareSource. Highmark offers plans in all 55 counties. …

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