More adults and children than expected have signed up for health coverage under Virginia’s expanded Medicaid, according to data from the first six months of signups.
In Albemarle County, local officials have seen a “doubling of the number of ongoing cases,” according to Wanda Hoerman, a program manager at the Albemarle’s social services department and the University of Virginia’s Medicaid unit.
Hoerman’s office, which has hired additional staff to handle the influx, takes applications from Albemarle residents and, through contract work with the UVa Medical Center, also helps hospital patients from across the state access services.
That includes signups from all population sectors of Central Virginia and the state. According to Hoerman, more children, parents and women have signed up, and more people who already would have been eligible for benefits, such as disabled people, have signed up due to the expedited process.
“There are many people who would already have been eligible under a different program but, rather than waiting for a disability claim to be verified, say, also qualify under the income requirement, and that’s much quicker,” Hoerman said. “There’s no lines, no taking numbers and it’s a very streamlined process.”
Hoerman said she expects the workflow will become more steady as new cases become less frequent and existing cases come up for review.
According to the state’s Department of Medical Assistance Services, more than 290,000 people have signed up for the program since Jan. 1.
Within Central Virginia, Charlottesville has 1,592 new enrollees; Albemarle County has 2,245; Greene County has 726; Orange County has 1,287; Louisa County has 1,472; Fluvanna County has 744; Buckingham County has 833; and Nelson County has 647.
According to a presentation made to the Virginia Senate Finance Committee by DMAS Director Dr. Jennifer Lee, the state is now able to get a picture of the new participants’ health.
The data show that many new members have chronic health issues. Statewide, nearly 35,000 have hypertension. Roughly 16,600 have diabetes. More than 15,000 have a substance abuse disorder. And about 2,500 have been diagnosed as having cancer.
The good news is that many new enrollees appear to be seeking out medical care for their conditions now that they have access to coverage. According to Lee’s presentation, more than 175,000 Medicaid expansion members have visited a provider since signing up, and more than 81,000 have received a prescription.
Virginia has asked for a federal waiver that will let it add a work requirement; that application is still pending while court challenges in other states move forward. Any requirement likely would not apply until 2020, and no penalty will be instituted until 2021, according to Lee.
If approved, a work requirement would ask non-disabled adults to work, be in school or perform community service in order to receive health care.
Until then, income is the main requirement for eligibility. Single adults making up to $16,754 annually or a family of three making up to $28,677 can qualify.