Virginia Approves Medicaid Expansion

The Virginia legislature voted in May to make government health insurance (Medicaid) available to 400,000, previously ineligible, low-income residents, overcoming five years of GOP resistance. Virginia will join 32 other states and the District in expanding Medicaid coverage.

The measure is expected to take effect Jan. 1, 2019. The leanness of the current Medicaid program partly accounts for Virginia’s reluctance to expand. Virginia’s existing Medicaid program is one of the least generous in the nation. To be eligible, a disabled individual can make no more than $9,700 a year. The cutoff for a family of three is $6,900. Able-bodied, childless adults are not eligible, no matter how poor. Under the Affordable Care Act, Virginia can raise those income limits to $16,750 a year for a disabled person or able-bodied adult, and $28,700 for a family of three.

The current program covers 1 million people, so adding 400,000 represents a 40 percent increase — a much bigger leap for Virginia than for most other states. Under the act, Washington allows states to open their Medicaid rolls to people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, which is $16,643 for an individual. The federal government pledged to pay at least 90 percent of the cost, which in Virginia would amount to about $2 Billion per year.

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