FAIRMONT — The American Rescue Plan did more than send out stimulus checks.
Tuesday, Palatine Park was filled with pop-up tents from area nonprofits whose reps joined together to spread the word about affordable health insurance through the federal Health Insurance Marketplace via the Affordable Care Act.
Leading the event was WV Navigator, a federally-funded nonprofit that assists the public in navigating the marketplace and offers free counseling about health insurance.
Tuesday, representatives held a health fair for the public in honor of Health Insurance Awareness Day.
“We know health insurance isn’t a really exciting thing, but it remains the most important factor in a healthy lifestyle,” WV Navigator Program Coordinator Nicki Bailey said. “We’re here with family fun activities that folks can come enjoy and see about getting affordable health insurance.”
If a family hasn’t shopped for health insurance, now is the time.
Many Americans have had negative experiences with the marketplace. From website bugs to higher premiums, the Affordable Care Act has earned a bad rap, but Bailey said that thanks to the American Rescue Plan and other factors, prices are lower and plans are more accessible than ever.
“Over the last several years, families looked at the marketplace and it just wasn’t affordable for them — rates were going up, it was costing too much, high deductibles — that all changed with the American Rescue Plan,” Bailey said. “It’s more affordable than ever, rates are drastically lower and we’re urging everyone to check back in if they haven’t in a while.”
This year, 4 out of 5 West Virginians will qualify for a plan at less than $10 per month, according to WV Navigator. Thanks to the expansions of coverage, even most high-income earners now qualify for the lower-cost plans.
While health insurance took a central role in Tuesday’s event, the park was packed with other nonprofits from around the county, all with a focus on family health.
WIC, Tygart Valley United Way, Marion County Family Resource Network, had tables set up promoting their services and informing the community about their work.
The event was cosponsored by the Marion County Health Department, which offered free wellness checks in their mobile unit. Also in attendance was the county’s Department of Homeland Security, who gave a drone demonstration to the families and kids that stopped by.
Health Department Administrator Lloyd White manned the mobile unit and spoke about the importance of health insurance, especially in the age of COVID-19.
This month brought a change to the way local health departments handle COVID tests. Previously, the tests were free of charge, now White said, he has to bill residents’ insurance for testing. If a patient comes in without insurance, he has to give them a take-home COVID test.
This policy change makes Tuesday’s event all the more timely, but it’s only one of the many benefits of being insured.
“The availability of insurance gives you a lot more health care options,” White said. “The longer you delay intervention, the worse the outcome. So, I think it’s critical that folks have the ability to get insurance.”
Families and individuals can call West Virginia Navigator to obtain information about the Health Insurance Marketplace. Navigators are available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Call 304-356-5834 or go online at www.acanavigator.com/wv.