UPDATE 12/19/2013 5:00 PM
A big deadline coming up this Monday, and no, we're not talking about the number of shopping days until Christmas.
It's the deadline for people to sign up for health insurance, if they want to be enrolled by New Year's Day.
That's under the Affordable Care Act and, of course, the online sign-up process is still a problem.
The major supplier in West Virginia says things are better, but still slow.
"But we are encouraged by the results recently, and we think it's going to continue," says Fred Earley, Senior Vice-President of Highmark West Virginia. "There might be a little bit of a lull after the cutoff Monday for coverage to be in effect January first. But we hope it's going to continue on and maintain this momentum through the end of the enrollment period, through the end of March."
March 31 is the absolute last day for open enrollment if you don't want to be subject to tax penalties.
UPDATE 12/12/2013 4:20 PM
It's been a little more than two months since the Affordable Care Act launched and the numbers are consistent when it comes to people looking for insurance.
Mike Dennis, from the Wood County Senior Citizens Association, says they've had a lot of phone calls and are doing a lot to help people.
He says they're still running into an occasional glitch with the website but it's improved greatly.
"We've not seen any giant influx; we kinda thought we'd be inundated with people to begin with. Of course that didn't happen because of the problems," Dennis says. "So what I think maybes happening is that people are just doing it and as they need help...and then we have a lot of people who don't have computers that come down here and we do it all for them."
Dennis says he thinks people are signing up but there's still enough noise about the fact there are problems maybe some are just holding off right until the very end.
UPDATE 11/19/2013 8:26 PM
Making an informed decision can be tough to navigate in today's healthcare landscape, but West Virginians have a new resource.
"It's getting better everyday,” says Naomi Bays, project director at ACA for Rural WV. “Everyday they're working on it and rolling out new features and correcting the bugs."
Healthcare.gov is still the quickest way.
"To get enrollment and to select a health plan and get ready for January 1."
ACA for Rural WV is another option.
"Different calculators, the different guidelines that will tell you what you qualify for and what you don't qualify for and we put it on one sheet -- one website for the public to view,” Bays says.
You can see what your tax credits are.
"To what the health plan costs might be,” Bays says, “to whether or not you're eligible for expanded Medicaid; as well as where you can go for local help."
For those with no access to a computer, Bays says there are different places in the community where you can go to get assistance, from your local DHHR office to hospitals, primary care doctors and libraries.
How safe is your information?
"This is a very secure website; it's through the government and they take privacy very, very seriously,” Bays says. “The amount of training that we had to go through, as well as everything that we had to adopt as navigators within our own company was very extensive."
Click on the link to the right to get to the website, where you can get information on insurance plans and decide what your next step should be.
UPDATE 11/19/2013 5:20 PM
Trying to sift through the President's Healthcare Act can be tough, but West Virginians have a new resource.
Naomi Bays, project director at ACA for Rural WV says the healthcare.gov website is getting better everyday - they're rolling out new features and correcting the bugs.
It's still the quickest way to enroll in a health plan and get ready for January 1.
In the meantime, she says there's another way to get the information you need.
"What we did was we gathered up all the different resources that were out there, the different calculators, the different guidelines that will tell you what you qualify for and what you don't qualify for and we put it on one sheet... one website for the public to view," Bays says.
There, you can see your tax credits, what healthcare costs might be, whether or not you're eligible for expanded Medicaid and where you can go for help.
It's basically just an estimate.
Click on the link to the right to get to the website.
UPDATE 10/29/2013 5:05 PM
Huge concerns about Obamacare, the rising cost of coverage and even dropped coverage shook the confidence of many - including seniors.
That's because they rely on Medicare, Medicaid and a fixed income.
The Wood County Senior Citizens Center is helping individuals not only with signing up under the Affordable Health Care Act, but in the expansion of Medicare that's part of that act.
It has been able to help people with coverage applications on paper and over the phone, but over the Internet is another matter.
And both the assistants we spoke to went through training and were certified under the new health care law.
The senior citizens center can provide assistance not only to those 55 and over, but as young as 19 years of age.
It has received questions from as far away as Morgan County in Ohio.
The Obama administration has said changes in the system should be completed by the end of next month.
So far, the senior center hasn't noticed any of those changes.
UPDATE: 10/08/2013 7:08 PM
The healthcare.gov website crashed and there are lots of questions. People want to know more about the Affordable Care Act and how they can get covered.
There's local interest, from the phone calls to the visits to Wood County Senior Citizens Association.
"So far we've had about 15 people in here to talk about what the marketplace can do for them,” says Executive Director Mike Dennis.
Lana Wilson, an in-home caregiver thinks the president's plan is a good thing.
"Because not everybody can get insurance and not everybody can afford to get insurance,” she says.
Wilson is going to explore all her options.
"And see, ya know, what I can do -- and just hope that I can find some affordable healthcare,” she says.
People are glad to finally have a choice.
"We’ve seen a couple of people in here that obviously had pre-existing conditions that I think they're excited of the prospect of getting insurance,” Dennis says.
Joni Rouse of Parkersburg has mixed feelings.
"I think if it's affordable people should go ahead and get it taken care of,” she says. “But I don't because ya know, there's a lot of people out there that can't afford it and they’re gonna be penalized."
Signing up is another story.
"Unfortunately, we've had the same problem a lot of other people have, in accessing the website,” Dennis says.
Rouse is concerned that if she doesn't qualify, "how am I gonna get my medical taken care of,” she says.
Once everyone can actually sign up…
"I think they'll be less backlash,” Dennis says. “But I think no matter what, we'll just do our job -- and we'll just get people put on and let the politics to the politicians."
Right now everyone is just trying to process all this information and how they're going to take control of their own healthcare.
UPDATE 10/08/2013 4:40 PM
One week after the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare took effect, the spin about how bad or good it is keeps coming.
Now we learn how some people here at home are dealing with a step toward socialized medicine.
Mike Dennis, executive director of the Wood County Senior Citizens Association, says they're getting lots of calls and people stopping in to find out what the health insurance marketplace can do for them.
Unfortunately, he says many are experiencing a problem in accessing the website.
But that isn't stopping two local women.
"I do feel like it's a good thing because not everybody can get insurance and not everybody can afford to get insurance," says Lana Wilson, an in-home caregiver.
"I think if it's affordable people should go ahead and get it taken care of, but I don't because ya know, there's a lot of people out there that can't afford it and they're gonna be penalized," says Joni Rouse of Parkersburg.
Lana and Joni both say they're exploring all their options and just hope the president's plan will allow them to get coverage and take care of their health.
Tuesday was the first day the un-insured could apply for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
The group West Virginians for Affordable Health Care says more than 11,500 Wood County residents currently do not have health insurance.
The uninsured can apply for the expanded Medicaid program or for subsidized private health insurance.
Supporters admit, however, that the first day of enrollment wasn't without its problems.
"I think all of those issues are going to be worked on, not only today, but in the weeks to come," says Regional Coordinator Lisa Diehl. "I think most people who are familiar with technology, getting a new telephone system in your office, or trying to deal with new software for your computer, rarely do these things go very smoothly on day one."
They emphasize, however, there is a six-month enrollment period for the new program.
Among those without insurance are the unemployed and people who work for an employer who doesn't provide health insurance.