Forget those assumptions about Medicaid and who can qualify for the program, because the rules have changed, says the state’s top health official.
The new law covering Medicaid expansion — which now can reach an additional 300,000 low-income Virginians — takes effect January 1. How those changes will affect Hampton Roads residents is the topic of an information session being held Saturday in Hampton. Another Saturday session is set for Norfolk.
To that end, physician Daniel Carey, the Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources, and Jill Hankin, a lawyer and director for the Center for Health Communities, will be among a panel of healthcare officials sharing updates about Medicaid expansion, insurance and how it relates to the Affordable Care Act.
“The rules have changed,” said Carey. “It’s a big change in the law and a change for the working low-income Virginians who are now eligible.
“That’s something I am trying to get out — it’s about connecting with people who (may) have applied in the past and may not have qualified. They are working hard. They don’t have coverage, or they’re low-income.”
Who is eligible now to enroll in Medicaid is one change in the law, he said.
In the past, Medicaid guidelines included individuals or families who fit specific criteria, he said. Some of those recipients included the elderly and those with a disability or with dependent children, Carey said — and those guidelines varied by state.
“If you are a single adult, and especially without a disability, you (were not) going to be covered,” Carey said. “My focus is on the nuts and bolts of what’s changed and what it means for individuals and encouraging people to learn more.”
The General Assembly worked well past its budget deadline to include the expansion package for subsidized healthcare with the capacity to reach some 300,000 more low-income Virginians.
The new provision requires that those who fall within the income eligibility and are able to work to demonstrate they are working toward a job or job skills. Coverage will apply to those with incomes below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or about $16,750 a year for a single person.
Lawmakers are still hammering out those details, and it could take several months before newly eligible Medicaid recipients can claim benefits, according to state health officials.
The bill expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act by using federal dollars and a hospital tax to pay for the cost of healthcare. Expansion was a key campaign issue for Gov. Ralph Northam and House Democrats during the 2017 election season.
In addition to expanding coverage to several thousand Virginians, the General Assembly’s budget provides for increases to the rates that Medicaid will pay hospitals.
Saturday’s session will include healthcare panelists and lawmakers across localities: Wanda Rogers, Director of the Hampton Department of Human Resources, Natale Ward Christian, executive director of the Hampton-Newport News Community Services Board; Dels. Mathew James, D- Portsmouth, and Marcia “Cia” Price, D-Newport News; and Chantra Stevenson, of Rx Native Pharmaceuticals.
Stevenson, whose company is bidding against other applicants to be first in the state to open a medical marijuana dispensary, will also present information about medical marijuana.
Carey, who will be available in both Hampton and Norfolk, said the group hopes to connect people to the wealth of grassroots organizations available in the community and get people up to speed on the facts ahead of the open enrollment period.
“I think it is an important topic, and this is a nonpartisan, common ground issue (and) now the law in Virginia,” he said. “This is the beginning of a lot of engagement over the next few months.”
The Medicaid expansion information session in Hampton is set to run 10 a.m. to noon at the Boo Williams Sportsplex, 5 Armistead Point Pkwy.
An afternoon event in Norfolk is set for 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Jordan Newby Anchor Branch Library at Broad Creek, 1425 Norchester Ave.
Additional information is available by calling 757-287-0277
Reporter Reema Amin contributed to this report.
Vernon Sparks can be reached by phone at 757-247-4832 or on Twitter at @lvernonsparks.