CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Resources says the hope is adding more than 100,000 West Virginians to Medicaid, the government’s health care insurance program for the poor, will save money and lives in the long run.
“These people are being cared for in one setting or another (without the Medicaid coverage),” Karen Bowling said on Thursday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
“The goal needs to be to put them in the least costly setting where they receive the most appropriate care and, hopefully, in turn, that’s going to, over time, improve our health statistics because we’re looking at things in a different way.”
As part of the Affordable Care Act, individuals and families in participating states, like West Virginia, with yearly incomes of up to 138 percent of the poverty level now qualify for Medicaid. For an individual, the cutoff for coverage is $15,856 annually. For a family of four, it’s $32,499.
Since October, DHHR officials confirmed 104,827 state residents have been added to Medicaid because of the expansion, bringing the number of people whose health care insurance comes from the government program to 461,354 — or about one in every four West Virginians.
“Many of those individuals are the working poor,” said Bowling. “Although we’re covering them on Medicaid now, in many cases, these individuals were probably receiving care in emergency rooms.” Historically, ER care is the most expensive and, when people cannot afford it or don’t have insurance, it becomes uncompensated care.
“Our hope is that those individuals, in being now on the Medicaid rolls, that we’re going to be able to focus our attention on reducing costs and improving quality and ensuring those individuals get preventative care,” she said.
Taxpayers fund Medicaid. For 2015, West Virginia has budgeted $3.6 billion for it — a total that includes $2.7 billion in federal money and $930 million in state money.
For the next five years, West Virginia will pay no additional dollars for those now getting Medicaid coverage under the expansion. In 2020, though, the federal share will be reduced to 90 percent and the state will have to cover ten percent of the expansion’s costs.