|RICHMOND, Va. — Today, Delegate Mark Sickles and health care advocates joined Protect Our Care Virginia to highlight the current threat to the health care coverage of more than 300,000 Virginians, as Medicaid begins a process called “unwinding.” This event also follows House Republicans passing legislation that rips away health care from as many as 21 million people who count on it, and speakers highlighted how Republicans in Congress are attacking Medicaid and access to health care as more Virginians are relying on the program than ever before.
Throughout the pandemic, the federal government required states to not drop anyone from Medicaid coverage in order to receive extra federal funding. With the federal emergency period coming to an end, all states will be required to re-determine eligibility for their Medicaid recipients. This process began on April 1 and will continue for a full year. DMAS estimates that anywhere between 14 to 20 percent of Medicaid recipients may lose coverage (more than 300,000 people). Of that number, about 172,000 people remain eligible but are at risk of losing coverage simply for not completing paperwork due to barriers in contacting people who are enrolled, such as housing instability, language access, and more. Children, Latinos and Black Virginians stand to be disproportionately impacted by unwinding.
“This is a great challenge for America, not just Virginians, who deal with this unwinding after the public health emergency,” said Delegate Mark Sickles, the former Chair of the Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee in the Virginia House of Delegates. “We need to make sure we are spending this money [for Medicaid] effectively, efficiently and get as close to universal coverage as we can, under this system we have now. So that is what we are working to do.”
Sickles also stressed that one of the benefits of Medicaid “is that you have preventative care, you have routine care, and that you are not waiting until you are really sick to show up at an emergency room to get your care. People don’t run to emergency rooms until they are really sick. And a lot of times there could be conditions that people have that could be addressed far earlier in the process. And that is what Medicaid expansion has done for so many people, to get them routine preventative healthcare.”
Freddy Mejia, Deputy Director of Policy at the Commonwealth Institute explained that “we conduct research and advocacy on state level policies that impact low and moderate income Virginians, as well as people of color in the state. So this Medicaid unwinding is a particular interest and concern for us.”
Mejia said, “First I want to share our concerns about folks losing coverage despite remaining eligible for Medicaid due to administrative issues. So examples of this could be missed communications due to having old contact information on file. Or issues submitting or completing required paperwork. Recent national analysis suggests that children, Latino, and Black individuals are particularly vulnerable to being disenrolled while remaining eligible. In fact – 74% of children who lose coverage nationally are expected to be disenrolled despite remaining eligible for coverage. We want to do everything as a state to curve avoidable coverage loss. That is why it is so important that we get the word out about unwinding to parents of children as well as to our Black and Latino neighbors.”
Jovanna La Fosse of Woodbridge, who is an immigrant who became a citizen last year, shared her story of the importance of Medicaid as a domestic violence survivor who is trying to build her life back. La Fosse has three small children and said Medicaid was helping her get services for her son, who has autism.
La Fosse, who volunteers as a community organizer with Care in Action Virginia, said, “It is a lot of help because I can get all the support for him and build up getting better every single day. So I am trying to build up my life again. With the new employment I have, I do not have enough coverage for my kids. Medicaid is a very good support for myself and my family, and if they take Medicaid from us, it will be bad for my son who has autism and I really need help with that. I have to take him to therapies, physicals, I have to take him to speech… Medicaid is helping me with these right now. So I have to say this is good for families, we are trying to get back our life again and build up our life and for any other person who at the moment who probably is not working or they lost their jobs or they are not getting paid enough to provide their own insurance, because insurance is really expensive. And Medicaid is really helping us a lot.”
A record 92 million Americans are enrolled in Medicaid, which provides affordable care to people from all backgrounds. President Biden and Democrats in Congress are working tirelessly to protect Medicaid from GOP attacks and strengthen the program to ensure Virginians and all Americans have the health care they need. April marks the 5th annual Medicaid Awareness Month.
You can watch the event here, learn more about how Republicans in Congress are demanding health care cuts here.