CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When it was time to enroll in Medicaid last week, Brenda, a Hurricane resident, was the first person in line at FamilyCare in Teays Valley.
An insulin-dependent diabetic with no steady income or health insurance, she has been receiving primary care at FamilyCare Health Center since she lost her health insurance in January, when her husband retired. She'd been eagerly awaiting the chance to sign up for health coverage under the state's expanded Medicaid program.
"Medicaid or even health care in general, it's just like a gift," said Brenda, who asked that only first name be printed because of privacy concerns.
Brenda had health insurance for years under her husband's employer-sponsored plan. She lost her income too, when she and her husband divorced earlier this year.
West Virginia's 28 federally qualified health centers treat an estimated 91,000 uninsured people like Brenda.
Officials say the health centers will play a major role in helping them and other uninsured people get enrolled in for insurance under Medicaid or the new Health Insurance Marketplace.
"The health centers have been preparing for the implementation of the ACA for actually several years," said Louise Reese, chief executive officers of the West Virginia Primary Care Association. "As part of the plan, health centers were provided with funding to expand their service and to grow the size of their facilities."
Open enrollment in both Medicaid and the Health Insurance Marketplace started Oct. 1 and will continue through March. Coverage starts in January.
Beginning in 2014, the Affordable Care Act requires most people to have health insurance or pay a penalty on their taxes.
Earlier this year, the federal government awarded the state's health centers, which have 226 sites across the state, $1.7 million to hire and train workers to help the uninsured population enroll in health coverage.
Of the 91,000 uninsured people who are treated at health centers in West Virginia, officials estimate that 75 percent will qualify for expanded Medicaid, which is now available to those who earn up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line, or $31,322 for a family of four, Reese said.
Of that 75 percent, Reese said, they hope to sign up at least half.
Kelly Belcher is an outreach coordinator for FamilyCare's five locations. The center has 26,000 patients, and about 5,700 of those are uninsured, Belcher said. To get the word out to those uninsured patients, Belcher said they've put up bulletin boards and handed out fliers around their five locations. A postcard will go out to patients on Oct. 8.