On Wellness in WV

Justice silent on CHIP

A bipartisan group of 12 governors sent a letter to Congressional leadership Tuesday, asking governors to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program, “as quickly as possible.” Congress let the program expire Sept. 30 and still hasn’t allocated new funding. West Virginia has been using leftover funding from the previous fiscal year to continue coverage.

They wrote:

We believe covering children and pregnant women without disruption is one thing we can all agree on.

For twenty years, this program has successfully provided vital health coverage and care to about nine million children. Without it, access to essential health services like well child exams, asthma medicine, and hospitalizations will be at risk. As health insurance premiums climb at unsustainable rates, this program gives hard-working families access to otherwise unaffordable coverage.

In the absence of Congressional action, we have worked to protect coverage for children and pregnant women in each of our states, but we will need federal support to continue the program.
Resources are nearly exhausted and some states already have begun to inform families that their children’s coverage may end on January 31.

Governor Jim Justice did not sign the letter. His spokesman has also not responded to a request for comment about the CHIP program sent two weeks ago.

The state’s CHIP board voted last month to shut down the program Feb. 28 if Congress doesn’t allocate funding. About 21,000 children in the state are covered by CHIP, and an additional 17,000 are covered by Medicaid plans that rely on CHIP money. In a letter sent Nov. 8, the Department of Health and Human Resources told West Virginia’s representatives in Congress that CHIP will shut down Feb. 28 unless federal funding is granted by Dec. 15 — Friday.

In an email Wednesday, Allison Adler, spokeswoman for DHHR, said:

We have been working with the end of December as our timeframe for passage of a funding bill.  This is a very fluid situation which we continue to monitor very closely.

At this time, the CHIP program plans to send notifications with more specific information to families and providers by early January 2018; however, services and benefits will continue as currently available for members through the end of February 2018.

Should Congress approve funding, the WV CHIP Board will meet to rescind the closure plan and the program will continue operations as usual.

We remain hopeful that West Virginia’s congressional delegation will continue to push funding for this critical children’s program.


The federal government released data today showing that West Virginia still lags behind other states in selecting plans on the federal health insurance marketplace.

The health insurance marketplace is where to find plans that meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act, including the requirement to cover pre-existing conditions, offer “essential health benefits” and tax credits, and avoid a tax penalty for lack of insurance.

The Gazette-Mail reported Tuesday that West Virginia was the only state showing fewer people selecting plans on the marketplace than last year during the same time period. Most states are showing more people logging on to Healthcare.gov and picking the right plan for them, when compared to the same time period last year; that’s because open enrollment is shorter this year so people have to sign up earlier. Open enrollment ends Friday. Last year it ended Jan. 31.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released a chart today that showed several thousand people in the state selected their plans last week, but the state still lags behind; 13,257 West Virginians have logged on and chosen their plans. By the same week last year, 14,909 people had chosen their plan.

People may be choosing to auto-enroll. Of about 34,000 West Virginians who got coverage through the marketplace last year, more than 10,000 auto-enrolled. West Virginia seemed to have a greater number of people who chose to auto-enroll, when compared to other states, according to data from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

(Another 160,000 West Virginians get coverage through Medicaid expansion, another component of the Affordable Care Act.)

But representatives of Navigator programs, which help people select insurance, in West Virginia are urging people not to auto-enroll. They may find better deals by shopping around.

The Kaiser Family Foundation warns that “letting the exchange automatically renew your coverage … could be a big mistake.”