As ACA Hits 13th Year, West Virginia Makes Coverage Gains

Nadia Ramlagan

It’s been 13 years since more than 156,000 West Virginians gained health insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act.

As sweeping and sometimes controversial as the ACA has been, its longer-term effects are still being felt today at the state level.

Gary Zuckett, executive director of the West Virginia Citizen Action Group, pointed to a new West Virginia law capping insulin copays at $35 per month. The law goes into effect January 1.

“I think we now have the best insulin copay cap legislation in the country that we just helped get passed in a very ‘red’ legislature,” Zuckett noted. “Which does show you that health care is not partisan.”

Federal data shows since the launch of the federal health insurance exchange, enrollment in health insurance plans has doubled from 8 million to more than 16 million nationwide.

According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, the Medicaid expansion included in the ACA allowed more than 200,000 West Virginians to gain access to health coverage.

Zuckett cautioned when the “continuous coverage” rules enacted during the pandemic expire April 1, the state will begin re-evaluating people’s eligibility, which could signal a setback in progress.

“A lot of people won’t qualify or won’t fill out the paperwork, and they’ll lose their health insurance in West Virginia,” Zuckett explained. “That could be as many as 50 or 100,000 people. So, that’s going to be a step backwards.”

According to America’s Health Rankings, around 6% of West Virginians were uninsured in 2021, far fewer than the nearly 16% of the state’s population who lacked coverage prior to the Affordable Care Act.