With New Data Showing Health Coverage Progress in West Virginia Stalled Prior to COVID-19 Crisis, WVCBP’s New Policy Brief Details How State Can Cover All Children

The number of West Virginians without health insurance stayed the same in 2019, further stalling the historic gains made under the Affordable Care Act even before the COVID-19 economic and health crisis caused job and health insurance loss for tens of thousands of West Virginians.

Today’s data release shows that 120,000 West Virginians lacked health insurance in 2019, a statistically insignificant change from 2018. West Virginia’s uninsured rate was 6.7 percent in 2019. Prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act and the state’s expansion of Medicaid, West Virginia’s uninsured rate was 14.6 percent, with 266,000 people without health insurance coverage.

Just as overall progress in health coverage for all West Virginians has stalled, our state’s children have seen an increase in the uninsured rate as well. Our new policy brief out today highlights how West Virginia can build upon the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to reverse course and cover all kids.

“Much progress has been made in recent years to achieve the goal of universal health care coverage for children. But challenges remain, and there is still a need for affordable, comprehensive insurance options. A CHIP buy-in program can act as one of those options, particularly in light of recent changes to federal law that make it easier for states to pursue their own program. A well-designed CHIP buy-in program could be a cost-effective way of moving toward universal coverage for children.”

You can find the full report here.

While concerning, the 2019 data is already out-of-date as many West Virginians have lost health coverage due to the COVID-19 crisis and the current uninsured rate is likely much higher. As many as 100,000 West Virginians, including both those who lost their jobs and dependents of displaced workers, lost their health coverage this year at the height of the COVID-19 economic crisis. If all of those West Virginians remain uninsured for a length of time, the state’s 2020 uninsured rate could spike to over 12 percent. A CHIP buy-in program could help mitigate some of that harm.