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Medicaid advocates in West Virginia raise concerns on first day of Medicaid Awareness Month

By Steven Allen Adams, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Advocates for a strong and robust Medicaid system in West Virginia say the program is healthy, but changes and cuts being considered by the Legislature could put the program at risk of not meeting the needs of state residents.

Advocacy organizations gathered in Charleston Monday morning to kick off the start of Medicaid Awareness Month in April. The federal program – first signed into law in 1965 by President Lyndon Johnson – provides access to affordable healthcare for low-income individuals and families.

Medicaid Awareness Month is meant to celebrate the program and also draw attention to potential actions that could put the program at risk. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there were more than 548,000 West Virginians on Medicaid as of November – nearly 31% of the state’s total population.

“There’s never been a better time to raise awareness about Medicaid’s importance for our communities here at home and really, frankly, across the entire nation,” said Ellen Allen, the executive director for West Virginians for Affordable Healthcare. “Medicaid is working for West Virginia families today and every day, not just during Medicaid Awareness Month.”

According to Allen, Medicaid represents more than $5 billion in total federal and state funding. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, more than $2 billion went towards managed care and health plans in fiscal year 2022, and more than $1.6 billion went towards fee-for-service long-term care.

Rich Sutphin, executive director for the West Virginia Rural Health Association, said the Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) are a large part of the state’s funding for rural healthcare.

“Medicaid largely supports rural populations,” Sutphin said. “In West Virginia, Medicaid helps fund all of the infrastructure that we see, from our community clinics to our hospitals. People access care thanks to dollars that flow through Medicaid.”

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