Oct 17 2018

Virginia is expanding its Medicaid program’s income eligibility brackets Jan. 1, meaning an estimated 400,000 Virginians will qualify who may not have in the past.  

That’s the message every county in the state is taking to the people, encouraging those who think they may qualify to apply as soon as possible. Flyers have been sent home with students, and community organizations are joining in the outreach efforts.  

Thankfully, the state is using technology to do some of the heavy-lifting. More than 200,000 Virginians who are expected to be eligible based on their current enrollment in other programs will automatically receive letters informing them of their ability to receive Medicaid benefits. 

Medicaid is a state and federally-funded program that pays health-care-related costs for no-wage or low-wage earners and their families; the disabled and low-income elderly residents. Services include doctor’s appointments, hospitalization, prescription medications, maternity, newborn care, behavioral health and more.  

Prior to this expansion, which Virginia lawmakers approved earlier this year, Virginia’s existing Medicaid program was one of the stingiest in the nation.  

Even disabled adults could not qualify for Medicaid if they made more than $9,700 a year; and childless, non-disabled adults did not qualify for Medicaid at all -- no matter how little they made.  

Starting Jan. 1, all adults making up to $16,700 a year – whether or not they have children – will be eligible. 

In Prince William County, an additional 14,000 county residents are expected to qualify under the new rules. The county is adding 18 full-time, permanent employees who will work to process new enrollees. 

Applications can be made in person at any Virginia Department of Social services office, as well as by telephone and online at coverva.org.  

Applications can also be filed on the website commonly known as the “marketplace,” set up to help identify region-specific insurance plans based on individual needs. Those who qualify for Medicaid receive a packet in the mail within six days. The insured then must chose an HMO provider, or one will be assigned.  

The Virginia General Assembly had planned to require able-bodied adults to work or volunteer to be eligible for Medicaid. The national program doesn’t include that requirement partly because such rules could inadvertently kick people off the program if they fail to file the right paperwork.   

Virginia has nonetheless applied for a waiver to add the work requirement, but it has not yet been accepted. Because of that, the work requirement is on hold for now.  

We applaud these “pull-out-all-the-stops” efforts by the commonwealth and our local county governments to spread the word so Medicaid can work for more low-income Virginians. 

So often, those most in need of help go without such services because they don’t know they are available or how to access them. County departments that help connect people to such programs are typically overworked and understaffed, hampering their ability to seek out those who qualify.  

This effort is an exception. But it's only going to work if the entire community gets the message out.  

The debate over Medicaid expansion was a long and divisive one, but now resources are available to help more people access life-saving and life-changing medical care.  

We join the effort to spread the word so these important benefits don’t get left on the table.

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