How Philanthropy Can Help Keep Communities Covered

Guest blog post authored by Emily Roller, Health Insurance Program Manager, Virginia Health Care Foundation

When the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a Public Health Emergency (PHE) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it allowed Virginia’s Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) to continue most Medicaid members’ coverage without having to renew their eligibility annually. As a result, more than 2 million Virginians are now enrolled in Medicaid/FAMIS.

The PHE is expected to conclude later this year. When this happens, DMAS will have 14 months to renew coverage for all Virginians enrolled in Medicaid/FAMIS. This includes those enrolled in Medicaid due to being aged, blind, or disabled. Since most Medicaid/FAMIS enrollees have not had to renew in 3 years, many are unaware that they need to do so. To make matters worse, many had to move during the pandemic as they lost jobs or housing costs skyrocketed. It is likely that most did not update their mailing address with DMAS. This means that renewal communications from DMAS won’t reach them. 

Foundations play many roles in addition to grantmaking. They can be conveners, thought leaders, and sources of information. All of these roles are needed to ensure the low-income Virginians who remain eligible for Medicaid retain coverage. Please consider engaging in this opportunity to help the communities you serve keep coverage. Some actions you could take follow:

  • Meet with local Department of Social Services (DSS) director, and hospital CEO, to determine their assessment of local impact and identify what they need to be successful.
  • Convene local community leaders of health and human services organizations, and community groups, for an information session. Learn their thoughts, and identify their interest in becoming involved and what they need in order to engage. Share the DMAS “Public Health Emergency Unwinding Tool Kits” with them.
  • Visit with members of your local newspaper’s editorial board (preferably, with your local DSS director and hospital CEO) to educate them about what is coming and its local human and economic consequences.
  • Alert your grantees to the coming challenge and encourage them to educate their clients/patients about the need to keep their contact information updated with their Medicaid Managed Care Organization (MCO) or local DSS. This will enable them to receive notice from DMAS when their renewal is due.
  • Community Health Workers can be very helpful to inform Medicaid enrollees about the upcoming renewals and need for Medicaid members to keep their contact information updated. You could encourage this locally.
  • Typically, when major “one-time” events occur that will positively or adversely impact the individuals and communities they serve, the staff of human services organizations will rise to the occasion to help. The coming resumption of renewals will be the largest enrollment event in the history of the Medicaid program. Once that and the consequences of the resulting health coverage losses become clear, it is likely that local human services organizations will want to help.

    Attending a SignUpNow workshop, which provides detailed information about the Medicaid application and enrollment process, could prepare them. There are 2 SignUpNow workshops – one for the standard Medicaid application (for children and families, including Medicaid Expansion adults), and one for the even more complex rules and process for renewing eligibility for Virginians who are aged, blind, or disabled.
  • Foundations can sponsor SignUpNow workshops in their service area, and/or promote them locally. They are available virtually or in-person (depending on the nature of COVID-19 in each area). These workshops are conducted by the Virginia Health Care Foundation. Click here for more information about SignUpNow workshops, or contact with any questions. 

Good health affects all aspects of a person’s life, including the ability to work and provide for his/her family. Medicaid health insurance provides the wherewithal for many low-income Virginians (including many who are aged, blind, or disabled) to obtain the care and treatments they need to maintain good health and avoid medical debt.

Foundations that include low-income populations, children, pregnant people, or the aged, blind, or disabled as a priority population should consider engaging in Medicaid renewal efforts, even if health care is not one of their priority areas of focus. For these groups in particular, the consequences of losing the health coverage they need, and for which they are still eligible, will affect all other aspects of their lives.