Faced with uncertainty about the costs of the coronavirus, lawmakers hit pause on plans to spend more money on Medicaid coverage earlier this year. But, in spite of an expected revenue shortfall, policy experts say there’s plenty of money left for healthcare spending.
Virginia saved millions on Medicaid spending this year because of a boost in federal funds, giving lawmakers the opportunity to restore programs that were back-burnered because of the pandemic.
That’s according to Freddy Mejia, a health policy analyst at The Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.
“We’re asking them to reinvest a small portion of the money saved back into the state Medicaid program in order to make sure that folks have what they need and can meet their healthcare needs during this critical time,” he says.
That includes more Medicaid coverage for pregnant women, new moms and immigrants. It would also mean dental benefits for adults enrolled in the program.
“What happens in the mouth is happening in the whole body,” says Sarah Bedard Holland is CEO of the advocacy organization, Virginia Health Catalyst.
If people can’t afford dental care, she explains, they can develop a number of health issues. And that’s particularly problematic when a virus like COVID-19 is running amok.
“Keeping an individual’s mouth healthy as part of a respiratory illness is one of the contributors to overall health,” she explains.
Some members of the House Appropriations Committee have signaled personal support for the program, but, faced with a host of competing priorities, the budget is still a work in progress.