Health insurance marketplace closes Tuesday for 2021 coverage in West Virginia

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. (WV News) — The clock is ticking for West Virginians interested in health insurance plans through the open marketplace, and for the subsidies that can help many pay for them.

Tuesday marks the final day to sign up for health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace open enrollment for coverage in 2021. In most cases, the open enrollment period is the only chance to get coverage through the health insurance marketplace until 2022, although certain qualifying events, such as a loss of job-based coverage, could make an individual eligible at other times of the year, according to Jeremy Smith, program director for the non-profit enrollment assistance group WV Navigator.

Individuals currently covered through a marketplace plan should pick a new plan or re-enroll in their existing plan before the deadline, as well, to prevent a lapse in coverage, according to Smith.

This year, plans are available through CareSource and Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Although in past years, the enrollment deadline has gone by Pacific Time, Smith said no such guidance has been issued this year. To be safe, he recommended filing by 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday evening.

According to Smith, this year’s open enrollment period started slow for WV Navigator, likely due to an election night that turned into an election week. That was followed by the Thanksgiving holiday season.

“We’ve seen a pretty big uptick over the last 10 days or so,” he said.

Many of those seeking help are people who have never had health insurance through the marketplace before, he said.

“Over the course of 2020, we know that thousands of people have lost their jobs and their employer-based health insurance. The Health Insurance Marketplace can give families a great option to get health coverage,” Smith said.

Particularly for those who are used to getting coverage through a job, getting coverage through the open marketplace may be an unfamiliar process, and the range of options can be overwhelming and difficult to navigate, he said.

Smith said he fears West Virginians who have lost their jobs will choose to wait until they get their next job before getting coverage. He stressed that an individual can drop the marketplace coverage mid-year if they are offered an employer-based plan.

They could also qualify for subsidies to reduce their out-of-pocket expenses. Last year, 80% of applicants qualified for financial help to cover monthly premiums. Smith said he does not expect a big change from that percentage this year.

There are still appointments available for West Virginians who need help enrolling or who have questions about health insurance.

For assistance through WV Navigator call the helpline at 1-844-WV-CARES or 304-356-5834 to set up an appointment and speak to a certified health insurance navigator.

There is no charge for enrollment…

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