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Cancellation notices go out to 8,800 in W.Va.

Nov. 14, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

CHARLESTON -- About 8,800 West Virginia residents stand to lose their health insurance because of the Affordable Care Act's new requirements for insurance plans.

The health care reform law, passed in 2010, requires U.S. citizens to enroll in health insurance but also includes a list of requirements for health insurance plans.

Insurance providers must cancel or change plans that don't meet those requirements. Policyholders are eligible for new plans through the government's health insurance marketplace, although that website has suffered crippling technical problems since its launch last month.

Policy cancellations largely affect individuals who purchase their own health insurance plans.

According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, the state Offices of the Insurance Commissioner have received about 8,800 discontinuation notices for individual insurance plans.

Most of those people -- about 8,600 -- are insured through Highmark West Virginia.

President Obama, in his attempts to sell the Affordable Care Act to the American public and lawmakers, frequently insisted people who liked their current health care plans could keep them.

That has proved not to be true, and a recent NBC News investigation found the Obama administration knew it would not be the case as early as 2010.

It's unclear how many people could lose their current health insurance plans because of the rules changes. Estimates have placed the number anywhere between 15 million and 52 million.

The number of West Virginians losing their current health care plans is relatively small.

While 8,800 are facing discontinuation of their policies, about 25,000 state residents had individual health insurance plans in 2011, according to the latest available data collated by the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation.

West Virginia has the second-smallest individual market in the United States, according to U.S. Census data. Only Alaska had a smaller individual market, with about 21,000 people.

Most West Virginians, about 910,000, receive health insurance through their employers, according to an actuarial study commissioned by the state earlier this year.

About 183,000 received insurance through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, and 246,000 were uninsured.

Those numbers did not include Medicare-eligible individuals. According to census data, about 307,000 state residents received health insurance through Medicare in 2011.

The National Republican Senatorial Committee sent out a press release Tuesday attempting to tie the Affordable Care Act to Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who is running as a Democrat for U.S. Senate.

The NRSC claimed 147,000 West Virginia residents "are at risk of losing their health insurance," but Brandon Merritt, health care analyst for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, said that figure is far above any estimates he's seen.

"Currently we have about 28,000 in our individual market. That's not even within the margin of error," he said.

NRSC spokeswoman Brook Hougesen said the group obtained its numbers from census data, although the Daily Mail could not find that number on the census website.

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