More than 50,000 West Virginians have already enrolled in the state's Medicaid program that was expanded under the Affordable Care Act.
The federal health insurance marketplace, www.healthcare.gov, has been plagued with technical problems since its launch Oct. 1, preventing many people from signing up for Medicaid or private health insurance plans.
West Virginia's Medicaid website, known as West Virginia inRoads (www.wvinroads
.org) is operating without issue, however.
Nearly 2,000 people signed up for Medicaid through inRoads last week, according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources.
Jeremiah Samples, assistant to DHHR Secretary Karen Bowling, said another 526 people signed up for Medicaid at the agency's county offices.
But most new Medicaid signups came through an auto-enrollment program DHHR began in the weeks leading up to the opening of the insurance marketplace.
As an attempt to cut down on Web traffic after Oct. 1, the agency sent out 118,000 auto-enrollment letters to families that are eligible for Medicaid insurance. Applicants who want to apply just provide some personal information and send the letter back to DHHR.
As of Friday, 47,752 people had signed up for Medicaid through the auto-enrollment process.
"Whereas many folks around the country may be struggling to access the federal government's healthcare.gov website, far fewer West Virginians are having to navigate that process because of this effort," Samples said.
The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, greatly expands eligibility requirements for Medicaid.
In West Virginia, anyone earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty level is now eligible, which would include an individual making $15,800 per year or a family of four earning $32,500.
Under the expansion, 277,000 West Virginians are expected to have government-sponsored health coverage by 2016.
The law also created a health insurance marketplace, where anyone ineligible for Medicaid can shop for private health insurance coverage.
Because West Virginia opted to allow the federal government to handle its health care marketplace, the state's inRoads website does not allow individuals to shop for private health insurance. It instead redirects Medicaid-ineligible users to the federal website.
Unfortunately, few people have been able to use www.healthcare.gov since it opened last Tuesday.