By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: August 29, 2019 | 12:30 p.m.
Healthcare expansion connects over 300,000 with medical services in Virginia
PRINCE GEORGE – Following the successful expansion of Medicaid in the Commonwealth, hundreds of thousands of people deemed previously ineligible for Medicaid have now successfully signed up for health insurance coverage, with Prince George County seeing its own bump in enrollees, according to state data.
During a detailed presentation from Prince George Department of Social Services Director Shel Douglas and Benefit Programs Supervisor Tina Dixon, it was revealed that over 1,200 residents in the county have signed up for Medicaid thanks to the recently implemented expansion, roughly 33 percent more than the office projected for all of the first year of the expansion.
Following action by the General Assembly and consistent advocacy by both former Governor Terry McAuliffe and current Governor Ralph Northam and their respective administrations over the last several years, the beginning of 2019 saw the results of Medicaid expansion take effect, with adults between the ages of 19 and 64 who meet specific income requirements and are not currently eligible for Medicare can get coverage through the Commonwealth’s Medicaid program.
In an example provided by the state, a single adult with an annual income at or below $17,237 may be eligible for coverage. An adult in a three-person family with a total household annual income at or below $29,436 may be eligible.
In December of last year, just a month before the new eligibility rules took effect, Governor Northam announced over 200,000 Virginians had enrolled in the program, giving them access to health coverage beginning at the start of the year.
“This bipartisan initiative has empowered men and women across the Commonwealth to take an active role in improving their health,” Northam said at the time. “The historic response from our citizens demonstrates the need for access to health coverage that will benefit our families, our communities and Virginia’s economy.”
Fast forward to this summer, that number has risen to more than 300,000 Virginians who are now enrolled and receiving medical services through Medicaid, with a third of them being parents, who, under the previous regulations, likely would not have been eligible for Medicaid previously.
“The tremendous progress we have made with enrollment shines a light on the need for quality, affordable health care in Virginia and across our country,” he said in late July. “We will continue to get the word out to newly eligible individuals who may be unaware that the rules for health coverage have changed.”
Even though Medicaid has expanded, the services available for users remains comprehensive, including doctor, hospital, and emergency services, prescription drug coverage and maternity services. In addition, as the Commonwealth and nation comes to terms with the ongoing opioid epidemic, behavioral health services, including addiction and recovery services are part of Medicaid’s offerings.
Coverage under the program also includes preventive and wellness services, aimed at early detection of health issues, exams, smoking cessation, and nutritional counseling.
Of the over 306,000 Virginians who have taken advantage of Medicaid expansion just this year, nearly 1,250 of of those new enrollees are Prince George County residents, according to data provided by the Commonwealth, up significantly from what Douglas’ department had estimated when they looked to bring on an additional staff member to support the expected increase in cases.
“When I came to you and we were looking at the projected numbers, [The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia] thought Prince George would have about 900 new cases for Medicaid,” she explained. “So I made my case for a new eligibility worker based on 900 new cases for the year. In August, we have approved over 1,200 new enrollees as of the end of July.”
“Seven months in, we have exceeded that goal by 33 percent and we have five months to go,” Douglas said.
When looking at surrounding communities, Dinwiddie County has seen similar enrollment numbers with over 1,300 new cases, while the cities of Hopewell and Petesburg each seeing higher demand, with over 2,000 new enrollments in Hopewell and nearly 3,000 in Petersburg. To the north, larger communities like Chesterfield, the City of Richmond, and Henrico have seen a significant spike in enrollment as Chesterfield has over 10,000 new enrollees, Henrico with nearly 12,200, and the state capital seeing over 14,000 enrollments.
With the number of cases expected to continue to rise as state officials estimate over 400,000 Virginians will be eligible for Medicaid through the recent expansion, Douglas said her office has invested in providing the best customer service experience to their clients when they come in, such as having clients only utilize a lone case worker, even if they are taking part in multiple programs, such as Medicaid, SNAP, or TANF, allowing clients and workers to build closer relationships.
“If you needing services, our goal is that you would contact your worker and they would try to provide all of your customer service needs,” she explained. “Our workers are generic. Our seven benefits specialists are cross-trained in all programs. That does make it a bit more complicated because they have to know the nuances of every benefit program. On the customer end, that means you only need to remember one benefit worker and you only have to make one customer service contact if you’re changing an address, or lost a card, or adding a child to a family, or its time for renewal, you have that connection with your worker.”
There are multiple ways to apply for health coverage in the Commonwealth, including by phone through the Cover Virginia Call Center at 1-855-242-8282 (TDD: 1-888-221-1590), which is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
There are also online options through the Common Help website at http://commonhelp.virginia.gov or through the Health Insurance Marketplace at http://healthcare.gov. Those online applications are ingested by the state and then sent down to the local social services office for processing.
In addition, a paper application in either English or Spanish can be mailed or dropped off at the county’s social services office at 6450 Administration Drive, Prince George Virginia, 23875.