State officials had estimated 300,000 newly eligible Virginians would sign up for Medicaid coverage in the first 18 months of expansion, which takes effect on Jan. 1, but that estimate has increased based on the current pace of enrollment.
As of Thursday morning, 140,643 adults now eligible for coverage under the expansion have enrolled in Medicaid, said Christina Nuckols, a media relations manager with the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Service.
State officials updated their estimate to 375,000 total enrollments by July 2020. That’s still 25,000 short of the 400,000 estimated Virginians who fall within the coverage requirements.
Under the Affordable Care Act, states that expand Medicaid allow coverage for people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $16,750 a year for a disabled person or able-bodied adult and $28,700 for a family of three.
A combination of automatic enrollments and streamlined enrollment processes for residents the state already knew were eligible—like those who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits—are some of the reasons why the pace of signups have exceeded expectations, according to a Washington Post report.
As part of the expansion, the federal government is expected to cover 90 percent of the cost of the program, to the tune of $2 billion annually.
Virginia will foot its portion of the expansion costs through two new hospital taxes, which are expected to raise $590 million in two years, $248 million of which will be used to boost the reibursment rate for acute care facilities that treat Medicaid patients.
The impact on travel healthcare in Virginia
Even with less than one month until thousands of new potential low-income patients gain insurance coverage, Virginia hospitals are more worried about handling current needs than worrying about future patient loads, said Imran Chaudry, a senior client advisor for LiquidAgents Healthcare.
“In the Richmond area, I can tell you from the feedback I’ve gotten that every hospital is still slammed,” Chaudry said. “I’ve tried talking to all of my…clients about the Medicaid expansion, but nobody is talking about that because they are so wrapped up in their day-to-day.”
Job orders for travelers in the state have increased significantly since the start of November, Chaundry said, from around 100 positions to almost 200 open positions as of Dec. 5.
Most of the market growth has occurred in the northeast and eastern portions of the state, around the greater Richmond region, Chaundry said.
Bon Secours Health System, the largest healthcare provider in the Richmond region, merged with Cincinnati-based Mercy Health in September. The merger is expected to boost services for Bon Secours in three markets including the Hampton Roads Health system near the state’s coast, according to a Modern Healthcare report.
Both the Richmond region and the Hampton Roads region serve large populations of low-income residents, which could result in a wave of demand for travelers once newly covered Medicaid patients gain coverage in January. Studies have shown that low-income populations prefer using hospital emergency departments instead of primary care doctors for their around-the-clock availability and ease of use.
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