Enrolling, removing Medicaid patients would be ‘disastrous,’ expert says


EYE ON THE FUTURE: Manhattan Institute fellow Yevgeniy Feyman says it would be “disastrous” to enroll, then remove folks in and out of the Medicaid program in Virginia after two years.

By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Enrolling hundreds of thousands more Virginians into Medicaid with the option to reverse the expansion after two years sounds like the perfect compromise for bickering leaders in Richmond.

At least it sounds great until stopping to consider how disruptive it could be for each of those hundreds of thousands of people to have health insurance one day and lose it the next.

Republican critics of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s two-year expansion pilot plan say the federal government will never actually allow Virginia to reverse course. But even if it did, the public health and political fallout would be a nightmare, said Yevgeniy Feyman, a health-care policy fellow with the Manhattan Institute.

“Politically it would be disastrous for the governor who is in charge when that happens, whether it’s his fault or not,” Feyman said.

Politics aside, the disaster would expand beyond McAuliffe, Feyman said.

Re-evaluating the expanded program after two years is one thing, Feyman said, but leaving low-income folks with a lack of certainty is a different story.

“If they’re going to have Medicaid, you want it to extend for some amount of time,” Feyman said. “You don’t want them to go in and out. It’s creating a lot of uncertainty because they don’t even know if two years down the line they’re going to have coverage or not. This isn’t how you want to run policy.”

Expanding Medicaid would add anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 to the program, according to different estimates. Many of those new enrollees would be childless, non-disabled adults, previously an uncovered category in Virginia. Medicaid enrollment already stands at about 1 million for a commonwealth of 8 million people.

Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be reached at kwatson@watchdog.org, or on Twitter @kathrynw5