Virginia Expands Medicaid… Now What?

June 13, 2018 · NCQA Communications

Any time more people get access to health care, we at NCQA think it’s a great thing.

That’s why Virginia’s decision to expand Medicaid to more than 400,000 people this past week is good news on many levels. Governor Ralph Northam signed the bill into law on Thursday, making Virginia the 33rd state to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The $117 billion budget goes into effect January 1, 2019.

Governor Northam had campaigned on the Medicaid expansion issue during the 2017 election cycle, citing his credentials as a former physician as a reason for his support of the measure. “As a doctor and a public servant, I believe making sure all Virginians have the access to the care they need to be healthy and productive is both a moral and economic imperative,” Northam said in a statement. “This budget will empower nearly 400,000 Virginians with access to health insurance by expanding Medicaid, without crowding out other general fund spending priorities.”

It’s worth noting that Virginia’s Medicaid program was one of the first states to require Medicaid plans to earn NCQA Health Plan Accreditation before being offered to patients, and Virginia was the first state to require Medicaid plans to earn NCQA Long-Term Services & Supports Distinction. These requirements improve oversight and provide a powerful incentive for plans to strive for continuous quality improvement. Virginia will continue to be ahead of the curve because the expansion includes NCQA Accreditation and LTSS Distinction as a factor in providing value-based care.

Benefits of Medicaid expansion are well documented and can have a substantial impact on population health and cost-related access issues.

In fact, studies show that Medicaid expansions in the remaining U.S. states could save them billions. According to the Roy Wood Johnson Foundation, expanding Medicaid under the ACA in nonexpansion states would give 4.5 million more people health coverage, a more than 4% drop in the uninsured rate and an $8 billion decrease in demand for uncompensated care.

NCQA looks forward to working with Virginia as it embarks on this new health care journey, and is interested to see how other nonexpansion states move forward in the coming years.

Of course, we want to know what you think! Do you agree with Virginia’s move? What do you think is the best way to increase health care coverage for all Americans? Let us know!

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