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Advocates worry thousands of Virginians could lose health insurance as pandemic rules come to an end

Mallory Noe-Payne
Radio IQ

Hundreds of thousands of people in Virginia may be in danger of losing their health insurance.

When the pandemic struck, Congress responded by passing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, preventing states from terminating Medicaid coverage. As a result, the number of people who have health insurance skyrocketed. Now, the pandemic-era rules are ending, and the federal government is allowing states to unwind coverage and potentially remove people from the Medicaid rolls.

Jovanna La Fosse worries about her family.

"So, I'm trying to build up my life again, and with the new employment that I have, I don't have enough coverage for my kids," she explains. "Medicaid is a very good support for myself and my family, and if they take Medicaid from us, it will be bad for my son who has autism and really needs help with that."

Freddy Mejia at the Commonwealth Institute says unwinding coverage disproportionately harms children and minorities.

"Recent national analysis suggests that children, Latino and Black individuals are particularly vulnerable to being dis-enrolled while remaining eligible," Mejia says. "In fact, 74% of children who lose coverage nationally are expected to be dis-enrolled despite remaining eligible for coverage."

He says more than 300,000 people in Virginia are in danger of losing their health insurance as Virginia unwinds Medicaid coverage and dis-enrolls people over the next year.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.