More than 116K enrolled since pandemic began
PUBLISHED DECEMBER 30, 2020BY RICH GRISET
The Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) has announced that more than 500,000 Virginians have enrolled in health coverage since expanded Medicaid eligibility rules took effect in January 2019.
Virginia was the only state in nation to experience a reduction in its uninsured rate between 2018 and 2019, the first year of the expanded eligibility rules. The overall uninsured rate in the commonwealth declined from 12.3% to 11%. The reduction was more dramatic for Virginians ages 18-64 with incomes below 138% of the poverty line. That population segment saw its uninsured rate drop from 28.1% to 23%.
In a statement, DMAS said that Medicaid expansion was a critical support to Virginians during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and that an additional 116,100 adults had enrolled since a state of emergency was declared in March 2020. Coverage protections in place during the pandemic have contributed to the growth in enrollment, the state agency said.
DMAS marked the milestone with the release of a new infographic developed by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Medicine. The infographic offers a preliminary view of the outcomes of Medicaid expansion related to health insurance coverage, access to care, utilization of primary care and racial disparities using data analyzed by the Department of Health Behavior and Policy, and the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health.
“Medicaid expansion is a powerful tool in our work to increase access to high-quality health coverage, and it has been an essential part of our commonwealth’s response to the COVID-19 health emergency,” said DMAS Director Karen Kimsey. “Our partners at VCU have provided us with an impressive look at the accomplishments we’ve experienced, as well as a roadmap for further addressing racial health disparities in 2021.”
Key findings of the VCU analysis include:
– Virginians who enrolled in Medicaid coverage reported a dramatic decrease in unmet medical and other health needs, including a 38 percentage point decline in unmet need for primary care and a 32 percentage point decline in unmet need for prescription medicines.
– A reduction from 47% to 33% in individuals using emergency rooms for basic health care after they enrolled in Medicaid.
– A 59% decline in the number of individuals paying off medical debt after they enrolled in Medicaid.
– Hospitals experienced a 56% decline in uninsured patients between 2018 and 2019, along with a 47% increase in patients with Medicaid coverage.
– The period of time women have retained their Medicaid coverage following the birth of a child increased from four months in 2017 to 12 months in 2019.
– An examination of racial equity as measured by unmet health needs found improvements following Medicaid expansion, but disparities continue to exist.