MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Health care reform has become one of the most misunderstood, polarizing and confusing issues of our time. Each state’s health insurance marketplace, or Exchange, started its open enrollment period October 1, 2013, allowing individuals and small businesses to shop for and purchase private health insurance. The National Healthy Start Association is one of 105 organizations to receive a federal Navigator grant to help reach uninsured individuals and families, and the WV Healthy Start/HAPI (Helping Appalachian Parents and Infants) has received $176,534 of that funding to help local community members understand what the Affordable Care Act means to them.

WV Healthy Start/HAPI has two full-time navigators currently helping people in eight West Virginia counties apply and enroll in the marketplace by providing outreach, education, referral and enrollment assistance. The navigators’ services are available to residents of Barbour, Harrison, Marion, Monongalia, Preston, Randolph, Taylor, and Upshur counties.

“We’ve spent a decade building networks of community partners to reach uninsured West Virginians and work with local and state health agencies to make sure we are providing accurate and effective services to the communities we serve,” Michael Vernon, Ph.D., chair of the West Virginia University School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

“Navigators will be among the many resources available to help consumers understand their coverage options in the marketplace,” U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in an August 2013 statement.

Navigators are trained to steer consumers through the process of using the health insurance marketplace by providing unbiased information while upholding strict security and privacy standards, in accordance with federal law.

Funded by the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) since 2001, WV Healthy Start/HAPI is a collaborative project of the West Virginia University School of Medicine’s Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the WVU Schools of Dentistry, the West Virginia Office of Maternal, Child and Family Health and community health agencies in the counties served by the project. One of 105 Healthy Start Projects nationally and the only one in West Virginia, HAPI’s goal is to help women and their families have the healthiest babies and families possible.

If anyone is interested in Navigator assistance with health insurance coverage and the marketplace, contact the WV Healthy Start Navigator Project Director, Penny Womeldorff, at (304) 293-1560 or at 1-866-738-HAPI.

For more information: Leigh Limerick, Communications Specialist, 304-293-7087
lal: 11-18-13