On the heels of a five-year legislative battle, Virginia lawmakers voted to expand Medicaid this week, which is poised to bring in thousands of new patients to hospitals and, in turn, a potential for increased temporary staffing needs across state hospitals.
The Virginia Senate, which is controlled by a Republican majority, voted Wednesday to approve a state budget expanding Medicaid, and the House of Delegates, which originally opposed the expansion, approved it shortly afterward. Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to sign the budget soon.
Nearly $2 billion in federal funds that were up for grabs in previous years will now funnel into state facilities and help provide insurance coverage for an estimated 400,000 low-income residents.
Under the Affordable Care Act, the Virginia Medicaid expansion will target citizens with incomes up to 138% of the federal poverty level—$16,643 for an individual and $28,700 for a family of three.
Those who qualify will be able to enroll at the start of 2019. Newly insured citizens could cause growth in patient demand, which, in turn, could lead to increased temporary staffing needs in the state, said Sheldon Arora, CEO of travel nurse staffing agency LiquidAgents Healthcare.
Many studies have shown states that expand Medicaid programs under the ACA also see a marked growth in Medicaid enrollment, according to findings published by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Additionally, a 2015 study by The Commonwealth Fund found that primary care physicians who accepted Medicaid reported seeing an increased number of Medicaid patients.
“Underserved groups will use healthcare services frequently because they have never had insurance or haven’t had insurance in a while. When they get it, they’ll use it,” Arora said. “We should expect the demand to increase, because hospitals may not have the staff to take care of the influx in new patients, so they will have to get more help from temporary nurses.”
Other states looking to expand Medicaid
Virginia will be the 33rd state to approve Medicaid expansion, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, but several other states are also working towards expansion approval.
- Utah residents will vote on a November referendum to further expand Medicaid to serve an additional 150,000 residents.
- Medicaid expansion was added to the November ballot after roughly 58,000 Idaho residents signed a ballot proposal in May. State officials are still verifying that all the signatures came from 6 percent of the registered voters in at least 18 of Idaho’s 35 legislative districts.
- Nebraska Democrats started a grassroots campaign encouraging voters to sign a petition to get Medicaid expansion on the November ballot. Organizers have until July 5 to gather 85,000 signatures.
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