West Virginia's Health Insurance Marketplace is set to open October 1. Enrollment will last until March 31, 2014, with health care coverage beginning January 1, 2014.
The Affordable Care Act, a federal law, requires that most Americans have health insurance. The marketplace is where people can shop for the insurance plan that best suits their needs.
Approximately 246,000 West Virginians are uninsured, according to a report by CCRC Actuaries.
People can peruse the marketplace by visiting healthcare.gov, visiting their local Department of Health and Human Resources office, or calling 1-800-318-2596.
As of Oct.1, Highmark Blue Crown Blue Shield is the only provider listed for West Virginia's marketplace, offering 11 programs.
The lack of options interferes with the concept of a marketplace, according to some health care professionals.
"It'd be nice to have a lot more competition in the marketplace," said Perry Bryant, the executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.
Bryant also said he anticipated the site to experience technical "glitches" on its first day.
"to me there's not so much question if there will be as how quickly those glitches get fixed," he said.
Those who do not sign up for health care could face penalties, according to Renate Pore, who is also with West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.
By the end of 2014, each uninsured adult must pay $95, or 1 percent of household income, whichever amount is more expensive. By the end of 2015, each uninsured adult must pay $695 or 2.5 percent of household income, whichever amount is more expensive.
The penalties are a small price to pay for "comprehensive" health care coverage, according to Jeremiah Samples, assistant secretary for the Department of Health and Human Resources.
"Is not having insurance worth the risk?" Samples said.
Samples explained several groups can avoid enrollment if they already have health insurance. People who receive insurance through their employer, Medicaid, or Medicare are exempt. People whose children receive insurance through CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program) may also sidestep shopping for new insurance.
The law states that certain uninsured groups can avoid the penalties, such as undocumented immigrants, individuals with such low incomes they cannot fill out income tax returns, tribes recognized by the federal government, people who are incarcerated, or those who belong to religious groups that dictate health care practices.
Families of four with household incomes below $32,499 can qualify for Medicaid.
Governor Tomblin expanded the entitlement program to cover more West Virginians in May. Pore said approximately 133,000 more people in the Mountain State will qualified for Medicaid after the expansion.
Samples said the DDHR sent letters to 118,000 people eligible for Medicaid prior to the Oct 1. enrollment date, and so far, 45,000 people have responded.
"This will ease the burden on both our county offices and also our IT systems," Samples said.
The assistant secretary urged people to be aware of health care scams. Never give personal health information to questionable organizations on the phone or in person.