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West Virginians Hit by Coronavirus Job Loss Could Gain Medicaid

About 13,000 West Virginia children were uninsured in 2018, according to the latest report. (Adobe Stock)
About 13,000 West Virginia children were uninsured in 2018, according to the latest report. (Adobe Stock)
May 27, 2020

CHARLESTON, W. Va. -- Some West Virginians may not be aware that if they've lost their jobs and employer-provided health insurance due to COVID-19, they could be eligible for coverage under the state's Medicaid expansion.

A family of four making less than about $3,000 a month can qualify for Medicaid in West Virginia, which now provides health insurance for about one in three residents, according to Jessie Ice, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care. She said if you're collecting unemployment benefits, the federal portion of $600 a week doesn't count towards household income for Medicaid eligibility.

"A lot of folks don't know what they qualify for, so they're not looking to get coverage," she said. "The COVID crisis has highlighted for a lot of people that there are options out there."

She said people can find out if they qualify online, on the West Virginia Navigator website, and that on the state government's web portal, wvpath.org, they can find out about other forms of support, such as SNAP food assistance.

A report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows the number of uninsured children in West Virginia increased 44% between 2016 and 2018. Ice attributed the rise to the widespread use of opioids that has seen many children enter the foster-care system when their parents can't take care of them.

"So, we think there are some things about re-enrollment, due in a large part to the opioid crisis and unstable family households, that probably plays a pretty big role in it," she said.

Ice said that West Virginia kids have benefited from Medicaid expansion, and only about 3.5% of them are uninsured. But that number is expected to rise, as the state's unemployment rate skyrocketed from 5% to 15% during the coronavirus crisis.

The Georgetown report is online at ccf.georgetown.edu, and the West Virginia children's health care report card is at kidshealthcarereport.ccf.georgetown.edu.

Diane Bernard, Public News Service - WV