Kara Murdock camped out on Halloween night so she would be the first person in Prince William County to enroll in Virginia’s newly-expanded Medicaid program.
The 27-year-old, whose right arm was amputated below the elbow as the result of a blood clot when she was 23, has been uninsured since she was dropped from her parents’ insurance coverage when she turned 26.
But on Jan. 1, Murdock will be one of the more than 180,000 uninsured people to gain Medicaid coverage under the program’s new qualification rules. The General Assembly voted this year to expand Medicaid coverage to include Virginians earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level – which comes to about $16,700 annually for a single adult and $34,600 for a family of four.
The sign-ups show the program has reached nearly half of the 400,000 Virginians estimated to be eligible for Medicaid because of expansion.
Murdock joined Gov. Ralph Northam at a press conference announcing the enrollment figures Wednesday at the Cover Virginia call center, where about 600 workers take thousands of calls every day to answer questions about Medicaid and help enroll those who are eligible.
That’s nearly half of the 400,000 Virginians that DMAS estimates will be eligible.
“I really think that Virginia has shown the rest of the country that we know how to move forward with this process,” Northam said of the 182,209 new enrollments. “What a gift this is for individuals who can now, finally, on Jan. 1, wake up and know that they have the security that they can go see a provider.”
Murdock has already scheduled several medical appointments for January.
After her arm was amputated, Murdock underwent 15 surgeries in three years, including taking muscle, veins and an artery from her legs and transplanting them to her right arm. Her medical condition has resulted in several complications, including chronic pain, a ruptured disc and issues with her heart and blood flow. When she lost insurance coverage, she had to pick and choose what treatments and medications she pursued . Even without all of the treatment her physicians say that she needs, her medical bills have exceeded $500,000.
“I was so excited about Medicaid expansion,” Murdock said. “I knew it would change my life.”
Murdock was a professional dog groomer studying to become a paramedic when she suffered the blood clot. She once weighed 87 pounds and could lift heavy dogs. Now, she weighs more than 200 pounds and has been unable to keep a job without the use of her right arm and while dealing with chronic pain.
She’s lost several teeth as a side effect of the opioids she’s used to control her pain, has not been treated for a ruptured disc in her back and is at risk of losing her left arm to poor blood flow.
But she hopes that her new insurance coverage through Medicaid will help her get a handle on her health and make progress in rebuilding her life.
Murdock is looking forward to being able stand without pain, to getting back into incline skating and to having her teeth fixed.
“(I want to) be able to recognize myself again,” she said.
At the press conference, DMAS Director Jennifer Lee stood in front of a poster that displayed enrollment goals , with the current number, 182,209, highlighted on a yellow progress marker.
“Every single number here represents a story,” Lee said. “That’s what inspires us every day to push and push to get this number higher — to get everybody enrolled who’s eligible.”
DMAS expects to have 360,000 people enrolled by the end of 2019 and 375,000 enrolled by mid-2020.