The Bulletin

State taps VCU to lead Medicaid expansion study

By: - August 6, 2018 4:27 pm

As Virginia prepares to expand its Medicaid program to an estimated 400,000 more people by Jan. 1, it has asked Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine to track and evaluate its progress.

The General Assembly voted to expand Medicaid in a special session earlier this year. It is likely to have a monumental effect on Virginia’s health care landscape, impacting everything from the state’s mental health system to the network of free clinics that care for those who are currently uninsured.

VCU will study a variety of state and national data, including Medicaid claims information and patient surveys, to figure out how expansion changes health care in Virginia and answer questions like how many people actually gain insurance, are able to access care, and receive chronic medical and behavioral health diagnoses after expansion.

The university did similar work for the Department of Medical Assistance Services, which manages Medicaid in Virginia, when it launched its new addiction benefit last year, releasing a report a few months later that outlined how many people actually received treatment and how many new health providers opened to offer coverage, along with other measures.

Some advocates have expressed concerns that there won’t be enough providers to care for the newly eligible Medicaid population, and the VCU study will pay particular attention to access to primary and behavioral care, according to a news release.

“We already know there are shortages of primary care and behavioral health care providers in some parts of the state, so it will be important to assess whether providers are ready for Medicaid expansion and to advise the state on the steps they should take to increase capacity,” Dr. Alex Krist, professor with VCU’s Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, said in the release.

VCU will also help the Department of Medical Assistance Services, which manages Virginia’s Medicaid program, create online dashboards to track enrollment, how frequently people use services and if they receive treatment for some conditions, like behavioral health and addiction disorders.

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Katie O'Connor
Katie O'Connor

Katie, a Manassas native, has covered health care, commercial real estate, law, agriculture and tourism for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, Richmond BizSense and the Northern Virginia Daily. Last year, she was named an Association of Health Care Journalists Regional Health Journalism Fellow, a program to aid journalists in making national health stories local and using data in their reporting. She is a graduate of the College of William and Mary, where she was executive editor of The Flat Hat, the college paper, and editor-in-chief of The Gallery, the college’s literary magazine.