CHARLESTON, W.Va. --Under a state plan, West Virginia's uninsured residents can sit down and receive one-on-one help in comparing health insurance plans.
This "in-person assistance," meant to help uninsured people purchase health insurance, is one piece of the state's blueprint for operating a health insurance marketplace.
Under the Affordable Care Act, states must submit plans to the federal government about how they plan to participate in their own health insurance marketplace, formerly called exchanges.
Friday marked the deadline for states to submit a letter of declaration and a blueprint for their insurance marketplace.
States had the option to run the marketplace alone or to allow the federal government to run it. As expected, West Virginia officials submitted plans for the state and federal governments to jointly operate the Mountain State's health insurance marketplace.
Based on the state's blueprint, federal funding will allow West Virginia officials to hire and train people to help residents enroll in health insurance plans.
In-person assistance is important because surveys have shown that's what people want, said Perry Bryant, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.
"It's really important that you have people paid to assist people in enrollment," he said.
How much federal money and how many workers the state will hire is not yet certain, said Jeremiah Samples of the West Virginia Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
"We have some internal projections," Samples said, "but nothing has been finalized."
Bryant said there likely would be between $4 million and $8 million to hire about 225 people statewide.
"They should be throughout the state," Bryant said of the workers who will help residents enroll.
He expects that some workers will be in Department of Health and Human Resources offices, some in community health centers, and -- he hopes -- some in family resource centers.