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Health insurance deadline approaches

CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- People who want to have health insurance under the Affordable Care Act take effect on Jan. 1 have until Monday to sign up on the state's Health Insurance Marketplace. The first payment is due by Jan. 10.

"We understand this is a busy weekend, but if folks can take an hour to apply for insurance and pay their first month's premium, they can have health coverage by Jan. 1," Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said in a prepared statement.

The deadline for paying had been earlier, but it was extended recently, Bryant said.

People can sign up on the federal website, healthcare.gov, which is working much better, Bryant said.

"That's not to say it's 100 percent and nobody's getting stuck," Bryant said. "The problem I hear the most is that people can't verify their identity and they get stuck in that."

On of the latest additions to the website is a do-over button, Bryant said. If an applicant gets stuck somewhere in the process of applying, they can start the process, he said.

"That just deletes everything there so far and the password the person can do it over again," he said.

While the deadline is Dec. 23 for coverage that begins Jan. 1, people will have until March 31 to sign up for health care and avoid paying a penalty on their taxes, he said.

People are required under the Affordable Care Act to have some sort of health coverage by then.

The White House on Thursday released a list of benefits to West Virginia under the health reform law. Among those benefits, according to the White House:

  • Nearly 400,000 West Virginians on private insurance got coverage for at least one free preventive health care service such as a mammogram, birth control, or an immunization in 2011 and 2012. In the first eleven months of 2013, 206,500 more people with Medicare got at least one preventive service at no out of pocket cost.
  • Up to 800,000 people with pre-existing conditions including up to 91,000 children -- will not be denied coverage or charged higher prices.
  • About 322,000 state residents got expanded mental health and substance use disorder benefits and/or federal parity protections.
  • 286,000 uninsured West Virginians will have new health insurance options through Medicaid or private plans in the Marketplace.
  • As a result of new policies, in the past year insurance companies have sent rebates averaging $132 per family to about 11,800 consumers.
  • From January to October, 32,700 seniors and people with disabilities have saved on average $918 on prescription medications as the health care law closes Medicare's so-called "donut hole."
  • 18,000 young people got health insurance because they can stay on their parents' health plans until they're 26.

For information or to sign up for health insurance, visit healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596.

Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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