2018 Virginia Oral Health Summit Speaker Q&A Series Dr. Jennifer Lee

Ahead of the 2018 Virginia Oral Health Summit on November 8, we’ll be hearing from some of our speakers about their efforts to improve health. I recently spoke with Dr. Jennifer Lee, Agency Director for Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, to learn more about the lead up to Medicaid expansion and the work she and her team are doing across the state to enroll hundreds of thousands of newly-eligible Virginians in Medicaid.

Dr. Lee will share her update on Medicaid expansion at the 2018 Virginia Oral Health Summit where attendees can learn more about roll out and what comes next for health care in Virginia.

The following Q&A has been lightly edited.

1.    Who are the nearly 400,000 Virginians who will now have access to health insurance because of expansion?

As we began the Medicaid expansion process, we held focus groups this spring across the Commonwealth to learn more about uninsured Virginia adults. They told us that cost as been their main barrier to coverage. Most of them work, typically in jobs that do not offer health insurance, such as food service, construction, childcare, and retail.

Many of them talked about their health issues and how they have been putting off medical care, paying out-of-pocket at clinics when they are sick, or going to emergency rooms when they become seriously ill. These men and women are facing significant stresses in their life from untreated health conditions, medical debt, or both.

Many eligible adults have applied in the past and been unsuccessful because of the stringent eligibility rules up to now. For example, parents in a family of three qualified only if their annual income was at or below $6,900. A single adult without children was ineligible regardless of income.

That past rejection has left a lingering pain. We are keenly aware of the need to let people know that they should try again; for that reason, you will see our outreach materials stressing that “the rules have changed.”

We also provide an income eligibility screening tool on our CoverVA.org website to help people understand whether the new coverage will be available for them. Under the new coverage, those same parents in a family of three may qualify if their income is at or below $28,700. A single adult with an income at or below $16,750 may also be eligible.

2.   Medicaid expansion was a huge win in Virginia - what comes next for the roll out and for expansion?

We are in the process of communicating with individuals who may be eligible for the new coverage starting January 1, 2019. We’ve contacted Medicaid members in our GAP program for individuals with serious mental illness. We know they already meet income requirements, so they will be automatically moved into the new coverage.

We will also be communicating with individuals in our Plan First program, which offers limited family planning services. Some of them will be eligible for the new coverage as well. Some individuals who receive SNAP benefits and parents of children who are covered by Medicaid may also be eligible, and we are reaching out to them and asking them to fill out a simplified application. Because we already have income information on these individuals, the application is shorter and designed to get the additional details we need to determine eligibility.

Finally, we are working with federal officials to gather information on Virginians who currently have health insurance plans through the federal Marketplace so we can be prepared to assist them with questions they may have about eligibility.

There are many other uninsured Virginians who have no existing relationship with our Medicaid program, but we need to make sure they are getting information about the new coverage. That’s why we will be conducting a marketing campaign this fall that will include radio spots, digital ads, and other advertisements. We also are in the midst of an 11-event tour of the state to give providers the information they need to help their patients understand the new coverage and to encourage them to accept more Medicaid members.

3.   What resources are available for people to share the news on Medicaid expansion? How can Virginians help?

Our CoverVA website is the central hub for consumer-oriented information on the new eligibility as well as resources for advocates. When you visit the website, be sure to sign up for regular updates by email and text. This is the best way to make sure you know when we can begin accepting applications under the new eligibility rules. I also encourage you to let your friends, neighbors and others in your community know about the website and the opportunity to receive these updates.

On CoverVA.org, you will find brochures, posters and flyers in English and Spanish. You can print them right off the website. Professional quality materials may also be ordered online at no charge. The website also has FAQs, an Advocate Toolkit, and recorded webinars on the new coverage for adults. Check out our eligibility screening tool, which helps people to understand whether they meet the income requirements for the new coverage.

You can also find PowerPoint presentations and suggested scripts that will help advocates share information with people in their community. On our website, we also include a link to the Sign Up Now trainings that will be held this fall. We encourage everyone who is interested in helping people enroll in the new coverage to participate in this training.

Register for the 2018 Virginia Oral Health Summit to hear more from Dr. Lee and the rest of our exciting speakers.