Mountain State successful in Medicaid enrollment

ELKINS – Representatives from four states, including West Virginia, that have experienced success with Medicaid enrollment expansion came together for a teleconference as part of a Families USA teleconference.

“This call is a little bit different than others in our series. This one is going to focus on Medicaid enrollment,” Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, said. “We think this is very important because (the number of) people getting into Medicaid is larger than those getting into exchanges.”

In addition to West Virginia, representatives from Kentucky, Oregon and Washington state were also included on the conference call last week. Representing the Mountain State was Jeremiah Samples, assistant secretary for the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

Samples explained that, due to his work history, he has seen both sides of the expansion process.

“I previously worked for the West Virginia insurance commission,” said Samples. “I then joined the DHHR, which oversees the state Medicaid program with expansion, so I have seen both sides of the coin.”

West Virginia looked at the viability of a state-based exchange as well as Medicaid, and ultimately decided that Medicaid would be the way to go.

“The state exchange would be too costly because of the small population (in the state) and the already high insurance cost,” Stamples said.

It was estimated that West Virginia would be able to sign up 63,000 consumers in 2014 and by 2016 there would be approximately 90,000 that had signed up for Medicaid, he said.

West Virginia used aggressive approaches and utilized auto-enrollment, which allowed the DHHR to identify people who were eligible through other government programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIPS).

“We identified consumers that were already known to the state by income information provided by consumers through SNAP, CHIPS and other programs. A lot of people weren’t signed up but their kids were,” said Samples. “(A total of)118,000 were identified as eligible based on the information we already had.”

The total expansion population in West Virginia is 87,135 of the 1.8 million population, which is approximately 70 percent of all eligible consumers.

“We are already higher than expected for all of 2014,” Samples added. “We credit this to the auto-enrollment.”

Pollack concluded the teleconference by discussing the importance of getting eligible consumers enrolled.

“It is important to make sure that people that are eligible get enrolled. These four states are doing remarkable things to reach out to people who are eligible,” Pollack said. “We want as many states as possible to implement these processes to get as many people enrolled as possible.”

According to its website, Families USA is the national organization for health care consumers. It is nonprofit and nonpartisan, and its mission is to secure high quality, affordable health coverage and care for all Americans.