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Many of Wyoming’s Uninsured Still Can Get Coverage for Jan. 1

CHEYENNE, Wy., Wyoming News Service — By the time WINHealth shuts down for good on Thursday, 13,000 Wyomingites will have to arrange for alternative coverage. Insurance seekers normally have to sign up by the 15th of the month for coverage to start the following month. Because the loss of coverage triggered when WINHealth was forced into receivership is considered a qualifying event, it’s still not too late.

Even WINHealth members who wait until New Year’s Eve to go to healthcare.gov and sign up can get coverage that starts Jan. 1.

komatsuMarguerite Herman with the League of Women Voters and the Consumer Advocates: Project Healthcare, says there’s now just one insurer left on the federal exchange that serves Wyoming, but not to worry.

“Blue Cross Blue Shield is still very active in the state,” she says. “And they offer something like 25 plans on the health-insurance exchange. So, people can still find a lot of options.”

According to the Gallup organization, Wyoming is the only state with a growing uninsured rate in the wake of the passage of the Affordable Care Act. The state went from 16.6 percent of its residents uninsured before the ACA to 18.2 percent in 2015, mainly because Wyoming is one of 20 states that refuses to accept federal money to expand Medicaid to cover more people.

Herman also points out that a number of people in the Cowboy State lost coverage when their low-quality health plans didn’t meet the ACA’s minimum standards.

“Before the ACA, any piece of junk could be sold and called insurance,” says Herman. “Even though by today’s standards, we would say it’s not even worth the paper it’s written on. And so, I think that kind of inflated the numbers before the ACA.”

For coverage that starts Feb. 1, 2016, people need to sign up by Jan. 15. Consumers can get free help picking a plan. Just call 211 or go to enrollwyo.org.