CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginians with jobs but no insurance bombarded Charleston-area community health centers with phone calls Monday, hoping to sign up for one of 10,000 "slots" in West Virginia Connect, the state's new health care demonstration program.
Enrollees pay no more than $30 a year for non-hospital care from the center. That includes unlimited doctor visits, screenings and immunizations, and access to low-cost pharmacy and care coordination, among other services.
"There were already 35 messages on the answering machine when I got to work," said Jennifer Russell, administrative assistant at Cabin Creek Health Systems.
"We've been slammed with calls," said Steve Shattls, CEO of Huntington-based Valley Health Systems.
"I haven't been able to call out for the past hour, because all our lines have been tied up," said Kelli Aftanas, West Virginia Connect coordinator for FamilyCare health center in Kanawha and Putnam counties. "Every time I reach for the phone, it rings."
"It shows how much working people need affordable health care," said Amber Crist, Cabin Creek's education director. Many callers work for small businesses or are self-employed, she said. Cabin Creek is enrolling individuals who make up to $43,320.
The eight participating centers will keep enrolling until 10,000 people sign up, Aftanas said. About 2,500 had signed up by the weekend, according to the centers' staff.