Blog Posts > As Ongoing Pandemic Highlights Need for Affordable Health Care Coverage for All, WVCBP’s New Policy Brief Explores How Medicaid Buy-In Program Could Extend Coverage to Thousands of West Virginians
October 21, 2020

As Ongoing Pandemic Highlights Need for Affordable Health Care Coverage for All, WVCBP’s New Policy Brief Explores How Medicaid Buy-In Program Could Extend Coverage to Thousands of West Virginians

For Immediate Release: October 21, 2020

Contact: Kelly Allen, 304-612-4180

Charleston, WV –  West Virginia saw the largest drop in the uninsured rate in the country following implementation of the Affordable Care Act, primarily due to success of the Medicaid expansion. While progress in reducing the uninsured rate has stalled since 2016, the pandemic has reinforced the importance of having continuity and affordable health coverage options not tied to one’s employment. The WVCBP’s new policy brief released today highlights the benefits of the existing Medicaid infrastructure and how it can serve as the foundation for a Medicaid buy-in program that would reduce churn among West Virginians with fluctuating incomes and increase choice for those who do not currently have affordable health coverage options.

A Medicaid buy-in is a state-initiated health insurance coverage product that allows people above current Medicaid eligibility levels to pay a monthly premium, possibly with state or federal subsidies to help cover the cost of the premiums, to receive health care coverage through Medicaid or a Medicaid-like plan built atop the state’s existing Medicaid infrastructure. As an alternative coverage option to traditional Medicaid, a strategically implemented Medicaid buy-in program could address the barriers to affordable health care coverage that hundreds of thousands of West Virginians, particularly low-income earners and people of color, still experience. Read more here.

“A Medicaid buy-in can be structured to achieve several important goals, including increased choice and competition on the health insurance market, increased affordability for consumers, continuity for populations with changing incomes, and potential savings for the state in health costs,” said Kelly Allen, executive director and policy brief author.

From the brief:

“As states explore opportunities to control health costs, stabilize their insurance markets, and provide consumers with more robust health insurance options, a Medicaid buy-in is emerging as a potential solution in states across the country. Moreover, the 2020 pandemic has only made the need for a Medicaid buy-in more clear. Amid a widespread health and economic crisis stemming from COVID-19, ensuring that residents have health care is more important than ever. And as unemployment is expected to remain high while it takes years for the economy to recover, health coverage options not tied to one’s job become increasingly critical.”

The public and policymakers alike have an economic interest in seeing as many West Virginians as possible insured, as uninsured residents receive less preventive care and have poorer health outcomes, creating a fiscal burden both for families and for the health care system. By supplementing traditional coverage options with a Medicaid buy-in program that provides access to health care to those who have fallen through the cracks, we can improve well-being across our state and move toward a more equitable West Virginia.

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