FLATWOODS, W.Va. -- Enrolling West Virginia's 300,000 uninsured residents in Medicaid or a health insurance plan will be a daunting task that requires a total effort of various agencies in the state, health-care advocates and officials said Tuesday.
"We need all hands on deck," said Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.
To that end, Bryant's group held a training conference Tuesday that brought together about 250 representatives from the state's community health centers, family resource networks, hospitals and free clinics and other agencies to learn the basics of enrollment.
The daylong training conference was at the Days Hotel in Flatwoods.
"I was really pleased with the number of people here, and I'm even more pleased with the diversity of people," Bryant said. "It's exactly the people we wanted to talk to. These are the people who talk to the uninsured on a routine basis."
WVAHC will also be hosting 14 regional training sessions, Bryant said.
For the state's uninsured population, enrollment in the state's health-insurance marketplace and its expanded Medicaid program begins Oct. 1, with coverage starting Jan. 1.
A survey from Enroll America said 78 percent of the nation's uninsured did not know that health-care reform will help them, said Rachel Klein, executive director of the agency, which aims to enroll Americans in health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.
Klein said there needs to be a broad, disciplined effort to get the message out about health insurance enrollment.
"We want to be conscious about who we want to reach," she said. "We can shout from the rooftops, but if we're on the wrong rooftop, using the wrong words, we won't get the info to the people who need to hear it."
Joanne Grossi, region III director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said her agency will be attending conferences like the one WVAHC hosted all summer to get the word out about enrollment.
The state and the federal government will share the responsibility of the health-insurance exchange, an online portal where people can compare and purchase health insurance plans, Grossi said.
The state got $10 million in federal funding to run its insurance marketplace, Grossi said. West Virginia will oversee what insurance plans go into the marketplace and will be responsible for enrollment.
"We'll kind of do everything else for the state," Grossi said.
A separate marketplace, called the Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, will offer small business owners plans for their employees. Businesses with fewer than 50 full-time employees are not required to offer insurance, she said.
The federal government will have its own multimedia campaign about the marketplace. While the details haven't been finalized, Grossi said the campaign will begin this summer and will likely include public events, social media, cable advertisements and partnerships with professional athletes who will serve as spokespeople for the marketplace. The campaign will target the healthy 18-35 age group.