More than 3,000 local residents have received access to health care coverage since Virginia expanded Medicaid — and the number could keep rising.
During fiscal year 2019, which ended July 1, nearly 22,500 Charlottesville and Albemarle County residents were enrolled in Medicaid, according to data from the city and county’s departments of social services.
In 2018, the General Assembly passed a budget that expanded the jointly run state and federal program, which provides health coverage largely to low-income people and those with disabilities.
An estimated 400,000 people across the state were expected to become eligible for the program under the expansion and nearly 300,000 have enrolled since then, according to the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services.
Single adults with no children previously were not eligible for Mediaid. Under expansion, they are now eligible if they have an income below $16,754.
More parents in a family of threebecame eligible to enroll themselves and their dependents as the threshold was increased from $6,900 to $28,677.
The income threshold for people with disabilities increased from $9,700 to $16,754.
According to the Healthcare for all Virginians Coalition, an advocacy group for health care coverage, more than 256,900 new enrollees accessed a health care service as of September 2019.
Karen Kimsey, director of the VDMAS, said about 80% of people enrolled in Medicaid post-expansion are using the program.
“It’s not just the numbers we’re excited about — we have real-life stories,” she said.
According to the agency’s data, nearly 5,000 people are newly eligible under the new guidelines in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.
A November report by the city’s Department of Social Services said some clients who need in-home or nursing home care now qualify for coverage under the expansion.
The report says many people who are homeless are now receiving support and, for many in the area, it’s the first time they’ve had comprehensive health coverage.
The report notes that the department’s workload has increased by about 50%, but “the positive results in our community far outweigh the increase in work.”
Patients in the University of Virginia Health System’s outpatient clinics can enroll on-site through agreements with 42 localities, according to Albemarle’s Department of Social Services.
The number of uninsured patients referred to UVa’s Medicaid Unit has increased from 2,118 in fiscal year 2018 to 3,390 in fiscal 2019.
Of the additional referrals, 1,117 were approved for Medicaid coverage. Of those, 279 lived in Albemarle.
The enrollments already are helping to improve health outcomes in the state, according to researchers.
Kimsey said about 6,000 people with cancer statewide are now covered through Medicaid.
“We know that this benefit is really truly changing and saving people’s lives,” she said.
Medicaid expansion has helped to provide access to care in the so-called Diabetes Belt, an area of 644 counties across 15 Southeastern states with high diabetes rates, according to a recent release from the UVa Health System.
In Virginia, the area is primarily in the southern parts of the state.
“With increased access to care, patients are more likely to receive the care they need to prevent diabetes or at least slow the progression of the disease,” Jennifer Lobo, of the UVa School of Medicine’s Department of Public Health Sciences, said in the release. “Addressing complications of diabetes as early as possible through regular preventive care can greatly improve quality of life.”