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W.Va. Medicaid wants simplified enrollment

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia is asking the federal government for a simplified way to enroll new people onto Medicaid as well as those already eligible for the program during the last three months of this year.The state Bureau for Medical Services wants a waiver to begin using, on Oct. 1, a person's modified adjusted gross income as an eligibility requirement for enrolling in Medicaid. That's three months earlier than the Affordable Care Act requires them to actually begin using the new eligibility standards.Without the waiver, the state would need to have two sets of eligibility standards between Oct. 1 and January 2014: one for those newly eligible under the state's expanded Medicaid program and one for those who already are eligible or enrolled in Medicaid.That could cause real confusion, health officials say."The states have screamed unmercifully because we can't run two sets of rules and an eligibility system and be ready by Oct. 1 and not confuse everybody -- our county workers our members, our providers," Medicaid commissioner Nancy Atkins said Friday during a meeting of the Medical Services Fund Advisory Council.Beginning Oct. 1, Medicaid enrollment in West Virginia will be open to those who earn up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That's a new provision under the Affordable Care Act.The current eligibility standards for Medicaid -- which were in effect before the Affordable Care Act -- take into account income, assets, expenditures and other factors, said Penney Hall, communications manager for the Bureau of Medical Services' Office of Policy Coordination.However, the new system is more simplified and looks at adjusted gross income, Hall said.
The waiver is available for public comment on the Bureau for Medical Service's website. The first of two public hearings was held during the meeting Thursday. The second will be from 4 to 5 p.m. Monday at the Schoenbaum Family Enrichment Center.One concern raised during Thursday's meeting was that people who renewed their Medicaid between October and January actually could lose their eligibility for it."I'm concerned that there will be people that will be found ineligible because the treatment of the different ways you count household members and treatment of income," Deborah Weston said during the meeting.During that time, those who lost eligibility wouldn't have access to health plans and tax credits through the marketplace until Jan. 1.To keep Medicaid recipients from losing their eligibility during those three months, the bureau is considering pushing the renewals to January or later for those who otherwise would have had to renew during the three-month period, Hall said.Bureau officials don't anticipate problems with getting their waiver approved, Hall said."The federal government has told us that they expedited the process of reviewing it," she said. "So they pretty well have assured the states that everybody will have their waivers approved by the first of October."
For more information or to comment on the waiver, visit the Bureau for Medical Services' website.Reach Lori Kersey at or 304-348-1240.
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