BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WBOY) – Three West Virginia health care experts gathered at the Bridgeport Conference Center Thursday morning to welcome expanded support for health care coverage through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Marketplace.
The ACA was made possible by the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which was negotiated by US Senator Joe Manchin. The Inflation Reduction Act passed on August 16 will have many benefits, but a couple include lowering health care costs and expanding Medicare.
Expanded support for health care coverage through the ACA was included in the American Savings Plan Act of 2021. This made coverage accessible and affordable for millions in the United States.
Had Senator Manchin not reached a deal on the Inflation Reduction Act, more than 13 million Americans would have faced higher premiums and lost health coverage altogether. About 18,000 West Virginians would have had to pay more for coverage, and at least 5,000 would have lost coverage. With the passage of this act, WV Navigator can continue to help people find coverage for the next three years.
The experts mentioned that they gathered in Bridgeport because it is closer to Sen. Manchin’s home and wanted to thank him for helping pass the act. They also wanted everyone across the state to be exposed to what this means for their health care costs.
The three experts present were:
- Rich Sutphin, Executive Director of the WV Rural Health Association
- Jessie Ice, Executive Director of West Virginia Affordable Health Care
- Jeremy Smith, First Choice Services Program Director and ACA Navigator Program
- Jim Wallace, event director
As Ice was speaking to those attending the conference, she discussed the work they were trying to do. For the past year and a half, they have been working to pass provisions to lower prescription drugs and health care costs. She said, “we were all on the edge of our seats on Tuesday waiting for this to be signed. Health care is the number one concern for voters here in West Virginia. Health care is expensive, access is difficult, and any legislation that we can put forward, that we can pass, that our congress can pass, that our legislators can pass, will benefit all West Virginians.
With this act, West Virginia will be able to have more affordable, accessible and equitable health care. Ice said it would provide 3.1 million people with coverage and force drug companies to refund money when costs rise. She also said that nearly a quarter of West Virginians use Medicare coverage and 49% of West Virginians do not take prescription drugs because of costs.
When Smith approached the podium to speak, he cited many statistics based on health care coverage. He said “eight and a half percent of West Virginians under the age of 65 have no coverage.”
The ACA Marketplace will have open enrollment for health insurance coverage starting November 1st. If someone has lost coverage due to employment changes or other reasons, you may be eligible to enroll before November 1. WV Navigator offers free help to register, you can find more information here.