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Arlington Hopes to Hire Six Workers to Manage Medicaid Expansion Changes

Arlington officials expect as many as 3,000 more people will be able to earn health insurance through the Medicaid expansion passed by state lawmakers this year — and now the county needs new staffers to sort through the paperwork.

The County Board could soon accept just over $277,000 in state funds to hire six new workers to process Medicaid eligibility applications, anticipating that Arlington will see up to 7,000 requests for coverage through the program when changes officially take effect next year.

The General Assembly approved the expansion this spring, after Democrats’ sweeping gains in the legislature set the stage for a compromise on an issue that had long roiled state politics. Now, Arlington and other localities around the state are preparing for an influx of applications from low-income and disabled workers looking to earn healthcare coverage under the program for the first time.

Starting Jan. 1, 2019, Medicaid benefits will be available for childless, able-bodied adults for the first time, so long as they earn no more than $16,754 a year. The income cap will be raised to the same level for adults with disabilities, up from $9,700 a year, while income limits will also be bumped up for families with anywhere from three to eight children.

Under those new standards, county officials project at least 2,904 additional people in Arlington will be eligible for the program, and staff fully expects that evaluating the incoming flow of applications will overwhelm county workers.

While income is one measure Medicaid officials will examine in determining if someone is eligible for benefits, the program will also require many recipients to hold down a job — Republicans insisted on including the work requirements as a condition for approving the plan, though it will likely entail complex reporting requirements.

Accordingly, hiring six new staffers would help the county better distribute work among its employees and “contribute to reducing the error rate and processing time for application and recertification processing,” staff wrote in a report prepared for the Board.

In all, the county expects to spend about $527,000 annually to afford those staffers moving forward, with the state covering just over half that amount. Staff are hoping to pay for the remaining $249,000 or so with its own money, then evaluate in future budget years if the county needs to maintain those positions.

The Board is set to sign off on the new hires at its meeting Saturday (Sept. 22).

Photo via Arlington County

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Kaine: Budget Deal is “Good for the Country and Good for Virginia”

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) is calling the bipartisan budget deal, which passed early Friday morning after a five-hour government shutdown, “good for the country and good for Virginia.”

The deal, which adds billions of dollars in federal spending for military, disaster relief, and domestic programs, comes weeks after a historic package of tax cuts championed by President Trump and the GOP was signed into law.

Kaine is touting several portions of the spending bill as Virginian victories, such as the $3 billion for 2018 and 2019, respectively, that the budget sets aside to tackle the national substance abuse epidemic. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has been funded for an additional four years, which a press release from the Senator’s office states will benefit 66,000 Virginian children.

A two year funding extension of federally-qualified community healthy centers was included in the spending bill. The Senator’s press release states that “approximately 300,000 Virginians receive health care at more than 100 community health center locations in underserved communities” across the state.

“I am proud to have worked with a bipartisan group of my colleagues last month on negotiations to reopen the government that led us toward this deal, but our work isn’t done. We now must build on this bipartisan progress and immediately proceed to debate and pass legislation that permanently protects Dreamers,” stated a press release quoting Kaine.

The bill ends military sequestration, which Kaine says has been “painful” to Virginia’s military community. It also increases national security and military spending by $80 billion in 2018 and $85 billion in 2019. Domestic spending will be increased by $63 billion in 2018 and $68 billion in 2019, which will fund education, health, and non-defense national security programs.

Other Virginia “wins” cited by Kaine, via press release, include:

  • Veterans – $2 billion for FY 18 and $2 billion for FY 19 to reduce the VA health care maintenance backlog
  • Child Care – $2.9 billion for FY 18 and $2.9 billion for FY 19 for child care, including for the Child Care Development Block Grant program;
  • Higher Education – $2 billion for FY 18 and $2 billion for FY 19 for programs that aid college completion and affordability, including those that help police officers, teachers, and firefighters;
    Drug Addiction and Mental Health – $3 billion for FY18 and $3 billion for FY19 to combat the substance abuse epidemic;
  • Infrastructure: Transportation, Clean Water and Broadband – $10 billion for FY 18 and $10 billion for FY 19 to invest in infrastructure, including programs related to rural water and wastewater, clean and safe drinking water, rural broadband, roads, rail and bridges;

Photo via Sen. Tim Kaine’s office

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