Under the Affordable Care Act, most Americans must have health insurance by Jan. 1. There are a variety of ways to get that insurance.
In West Virginia, more than 100,000 people will be newly eligible for Medicaid after the program expands its eligibility. Others can choose between a variety of private insurance options featured on state-run marketplaces, and most will be eligible for government subsidies to buy that insurance based on their incomes.
Rockefeller said it is natural for people to be confused.
"It's probably the largest piece of legislation we've ever passed, larger than Social Security," he said. "I love it, but it is complicated, and there's nothing wrong if something is complicated."
Among other outreach efforts, the DHHR is preparing to send about 60,000 letters to people receiving food stamps, letting them know they are eligible for Medicaid, according to Renate Pore, of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.
Rockefeller touted CHIP as the first program that gave coverage for dental care and mental-health care in addition to regular health care.
"CHIP does big things for all the little smiles that I see everyday," said Kim Lough, a pediatric dentist in St. Albans. "The teeth are attached to the rest of your body and, if your mouth hurts, so does your body."
Jessica Luzier, a clinical psychologist at CAMC in Charleston, said CHIP coverage lets her treat patients much more effectively than other forms of coverage.
She said CHIP coverage lets her see patients for 90 minutes or more, while Medicaid restricts visits to 52-minute sessions.
"I use 52 minutes and 59 seconds of those sessions," she said.
Luzier described one juvenile patient who had been sexually abused, had her house burn down and had a close family member commit suicide. As a result, she had clinical depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Luzier said it takes more than 52 minutes to work through the trauma associated with PTSD
Luzier said that after 10 extended CHIP-financed sessions, the patient no longer met the clinical definition for PTSD.
Ivan Lee described being raised by his grandmother in the Littlepage Terrace Housing Project, just a couple blocks away from the Schoenbaum Center on the West Side. Lee said CHIP gave his grandmother peace of mind, knowing that he was insured if anything happened.
"She didn't have a lot of money, she didn't have a husband, the only thing that she had was a heart," said Lee, who graduated from George Washington in 2005 and is now planning to go to law school.
"I got everything that I needed through CHIP," he said, "and my health was very good growing up."
Reach David Gutman at david.gut...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.