MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- An advocacy group that's worked for months to spread the word about a new health insurance marketplace born of the Affordable Care Act says West Virginia has passed up millions of dollars in federal advertising money that could have helped.
In July, the Associated Press found West Virginia was spending more per capita than any other state to promote awareness of the law and the new health care exchanges, with $17.1 million. That amounts to $9.23 per resident and was 11th among the states in total spending.
But Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said word has yet to reach countless working West Virginians who may not read newspapers or otherwise have heard the details of the health care overhaul often called "Obamacare.'' The people who will benefit most, he said, remain least likely to know about it.
To collect millions in public-education grants, "all we had to do was write a proposal and send it in,'' Bryant said late Monday as West Virginia prepared to launch a state-federal partnership called a health care exchange. "But the state passed altogether.''
Spokeswomen for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin and the state Department of Health and Human Resources did not immediately comment.
Starting today, West Virginians who have no health insurance can sign up for coverage that will kick in Jan. 1, 2014. Tax credits based on income, age, location, family size, tobacco use and other factors can help offset the price of the premiums.
On average, the Obama administration says premiums for a midrange benchmark plan will cost $331 per person. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services predicts that six in 10 people will be able to find at least some level of coverage for $100 or less per month, after tax credits.
Navigators, independent counselors paid under federal grants, will help people determine which plan best suits their needs. Assistance is also available at hospitals and other health care facilities, at county DHHR offices, and at a variety of private and nonprofit organizations.
Some 245,000 West Virginians are currently uninsured, by federal estimates. Under the Affordable Care Act, no one can be denied health insurance because of a pre-existing medical condition.