Apr 4, 2023 - News

Virginia's looming Medicaid cliff

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

More than 300,000 Virginians are expected to lose their Medicaid coverage as another piece of the pandemic-era social safety net is dismantled.

Catch up quick: Under the COVID public health emergency, the federal government has required state Medicaid agencies to provide continuous Medicaid coverage to all enrollees for the past three years.

  • Now, states will start having to redetermine who is eligible.

What’s happening: Virginia began the process this month, and it's expected to continue for the next year.

Why it matters: The new mandate represents a massive undertaking, both for patients and the government.

  • Local social services departments charged with helping patients enroll are already facing backlogs. In Richmond, they’re grappling with severe staffing shortages, said Sara Cariano, a senior health policy advocate at the Virginia Poverty Law Center.
  • Cariano noted many of the 700,000 new enrollees since Virginia expanded Medicaid in 2019 have never had to go through a renewal process before and “just don’t know what’s coming,”

By the numbers: The 300,000 patients the state estimates will lose coverage represent about 14% of the state’s Medicaid enrollees, Rebecca Dooley, a spokesperson for the state Department of Medical Assistance Services, told Cardinal News.

Yes, but: Many who are ineligible to keep their Medicaid coverage will be able to get coverage through their employers or the state’s insurance marketplace.

Zoom out: Between 5 million and 14 million people across the nation could lose Medicaid coverage, the Kaiser Family Foundation estimates.

  • Some may be eligible but don’t fill out the paperwork to renew, sometimes because they don’t know or understand what they need, Jennifer Tolbert, KFF’s associate director for the Medicaid program, told Axios' Chelsea Cirruzzo.

Of note: The state is encouraging enrollees to make sure their records are updated with their current contact information.

And the Virginia Poverty Law Center is directing people who do lose coverage to their Enroll Virginia program for help finding alternatives.


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