CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- More money is being spent per capita in West Virginia than any other state to promote public awareness of the new health-care reform law but advocates are concerned that those who could benefit most still won't get enrolled.
Data compiled by The Associated Press from federal and state sources show $17.1 million in outreach spending in West Virginia. That amounts to $9.23 per resident. The next-closest state is Arkansas, at $8.28 per resident.
The total amount spent in West Virginia ranks 11th among the states.
In May, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin announced that West Virginia would extend Medicaid coverage to an estimated 91,500 uninsured low-income residents under the health-care overhaul starting next January.
Currently, about 183,000 West Virginia residents are enrolled in Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program. This number is expected to grow to about 277,000 by 2016, according to an actuarial report commissioned by the state Insurance Commissioner's office.
The report concludes that expanding Medicaid while following other provisions of the federal health-care law eventually will reduce the ranks of the state's uninsured from 246,000 West Virginians to around 76,000.
First, the word needs to get out to the community.
Perry Bryant, executive director of the state-based advocacy group West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said a study has shown most state residents who would benefit under the health overhaul "have no idea that it's coming."
"Getting that word out and reaching that many people is a really daunting task," Bryant said. "It's really difficult to reach everybody who's going to be eligible. The other part is, you can't motivate somebody to make these kind of significant changes with one TV message or one radio commercial. It takes numerous contacts . . . to have an effect on people's behaviors."