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Four in 10 Rural Virginia Children Covered by Medicaid

The percentage of Virginia children covered by Medicaid in rural areas and small towns grew between 2009 and 2015. (Beatrice Murch/Wikipedia)
The percentage of Virginia children covered by Medicaid in rural areas and small towns grew between 2009 and 2015. (Beatrice Murch/Wikipedia)
June 8, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. – A new report shows Medicaid is ensuring that rural Virginia children have access to the care they need to stay healthy.

According to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, Medicaid or FAMIS – the state's children's health program – covers 44 percent of children living in rural Virginia.

That's compared with a quarter of children in metro areas.

Ashley Everette, a health policy analyst at Voices for Virginia's Children, says the proportion is even higher in the southwestern part of the state.

"Specifically for Southwest Virginia, in Virginia's 9th congressional district, 8 out of 10 kids rely on Medicaid or FAMIS," she points out.

Everette stresses that recent progress in covering Virginia children means 19 out of 20 now have health care access.

But the health care legislation passed by the U.S. House would cut the Medicaid budget by a quarter over 10 years, and President Donald Trump's proposed budget would trim even more.

Its proponents say their plan would give states more flexibility in how they cover lower-income residents.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says the center’s research shows clear benefits when children have health care access.

"Do better in school, they have higher high school graduation rates,” she points out. “They make more money and use fewer benefits when they're adults. So, it's really vital for the future of our economy."

Everette adds Medicaid also improves communities' economic security and protects families from medical debt and bankruptcy.

And she notes it is a crucial support for rural health centers and hospitals. She says the proposed cuts could force states to take damaging steps.

"Cutting reimbursement rates to providers, reducing eligibility or rolling back the services,” she states. “It would have a disproportionate impact on Virginia's rural communities."

The Senate is now considering the health care legislation. It isn't clear if senators make deep Medicaid cuts.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA