My name is Kelly and I work as a Navigator, spreading the good word of Obamacare in West Virginia. My colleagues and I travel the state providing outreach, education, and one-on-one enrollment assistance to West Virginians who need help finding health coverage. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to meet so many kind and hard-working people doing this over the past three years.
There was the self-employed musician who I helped to sign up for an affordable Obamacare health plan. A few months later, she went to the emergency room with stomach pain and found out she had cancer. Obamacare helped her afford the treatment needed to get well and kept her from going bankrupt. Another gentleman who came to see me had been forced into early retirement when his coal mine closed. He signed up for a plan simply to avoid the tax penalty. About a year later, he found out he was diabetic and is now incredibly grateful to have health coverage from which he cannot be dropped or charged more for his pre-existing condition. Other West Virginians have gained access to preventive services, chronic condition management, and mental health/substance abuse treatment. Many are able to work and provide for their families because of these benefits and protections. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, thousands of jobs have been created and rural health clinics and hospitals have been able to stay open to continue serving their rural clients.
There are countless other stories like that in West Virginia and around the country—people who have seen their lives improved, and even saved, by Obamacare. And despite the odds, the ACA (or Obamacare) is still the law of the land. My coworkers and I will still be traveling across West Virginia helping folks who need it sign up for health coverage.
But this year, more than ever, we need some help.
Due to a shortened enrollment period, negative political rhetoric, and a significant decrease in the federal government’s commitment to advertising, we are really worried that West Virginians who need coverage will not know when (or how) to sign up. So we have a few asks for you, dear readers:
- Word of mouth is vital. Please tell people in-person and via social media that open enrollment is CUT IN HALF for the first time ever this year. Anyone who needs to renew their coverage or who wishes to enroll for the first time through Obamacare only has from November 1 to December 15 to do so (in previous years, enrollees had twice as long– from November 1 to January 31). They can visit healthcare.gov or contact the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596.
- Think about your friends, family, and coworkers. Anyone who is self-employed or who works part-time or for a small business that does not offer health coverage would likely benefit from the Obamacare exchanges. Please share the dates for open enrollment and let them know that free, in-person help is available by visiting localhelp.healthcare.gov. As referenced in the stories above, many people do not need health coverage when they enroll, but they sure are glad to have it when they get sick in the middle of the year.
- Medicaid and CHIP are also vital to West Virginians. Both programs have year-round enrollment windows, but think about friends and families who may qualify for those programs and encourage them to apply!
- Pat yourselves on the back! (Followed immediately by calling your members of Congress!) West Virginia had the second largest decline in the uninsured rate in the country thanks to the Affordable Care Act. 94% of our residents have health coverage, and 98% of kids are covered. We need to hold our elected officials accountable and make sure we do not go backwards!