ACA plan enrollment in WV down again

January 12, 2019

CHARLESTON — In West Virginia, enrollment in plans through the federal online health insurance marketplace declined again this year.

About 22,600 West Virginia residents signed up for a 2019 plan on Healthcare.gov, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Healthcare.gov is a website where people can buy Affordable Care Act-compliant health insurance plans.

Last year, 27,409 West Virginians signed up for plans. In 2017, the enrollment number for West Virginia was 34,045. Nationally, 8.4 million Americans signed up for a 2019 plan, compared to 8.7 million for 2018 plans.

Chantal Fields, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said one reason for the decline may be residents moving from ACA plans onto the Medicaid or Medicare rolls.

Another could be residents who purchased “short-term plans,” which are less expensive for consumers but offer limited benefits and don’t comply with the Affordable Care Act.

“We don’t know what effect those may have had on those numbers,” Fields said. “We just can’t get a handle on it until we

can gather some information from the other markets to see if those people went to other markets or if they just didn’t purchase at this point.”

In recent years, the Trump administration has cut the enrollment period and the advertising budget for the program. Also, beginning with 2019 plans, people will no longer pay a penalty on their income taxes if they don’t have health insurance.

In a statement, Jim Fawcett, president of Highmark West Virginia, said the company has seen a decrease in enrollment similar to what’s been seen in the state as a whole. For the 2019 enrollment period, 14,700 people signed up for a Highmark plan, about a 20 percent reduction from the 2018 open enrollment period, Fawcett said in a statement.

“This is consistent with the overall statewide reduction in enrollment of about 18 percent,” he said. “Our reduced membership is due to many of the same factors seen across the country, such as the elimination of the individual mandate for 2019 and lower unemployment with individuals gaining employer-based coverage through new jobs.”

Contrary to what the state as a whole experienced, this was a strong enrollment year for Care-Source, which offers plans on the marketplace in 35 West Virginia counties, an official said earlier this week.

“Our enrollment shows there was a greater increase in our Marketplace members maintaining their current coverage,” Robert Brett, vice president of marketplace for CareSource, said in a statement.

“We believe our members’ satisfaction with their current plan and with CareSource created the coverage that met their health care needs and budget.”

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazettemail.com, 304-348-1240 or follow @LoriKerseyWV on Twitter.

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