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Here's what you need to know about changes to Medicaid benefits

A pandemic-era rule that affected Medicaid benefits expires March 31, meaning people enrolled in the program won't get continuous health care coverage anymore.

VIRGINIA, USA — Big changes to Virginia Medicaid (Cardinal Care) benefits are on the way. Friday marked the last day of continuous health coverage under the program.

The rule, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, blocked states from disenrolling Medicaid recipients. Since that is coming to an end, a renewal process that redetermines eligibility is now required. 

It means some Virginia families could lose their medical assistance.

The recent changes stem from the passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2023. As of April 1, recipients’ coverage of medical and dental health care won't be continuous anymore.

"The big change is that we're in a renewal period. When we first had the pandemic, all of these renewals and a lot of these programs just allowed everyone to stay on the program, since it was such an incredible, important part to have this health care coverage," said Shirley Brackett, crisis response director with Chesapeake-based nonprofit ForKids, Inc. "There really hasn't been a formal renewal period in a few years."

States, including Virginia, are so-called "unwinding" and returning to a normal enrollment process for Medicaid.

"What they're doing throughout the state is 60 days before your renewal date, you are getting a packet, like what would happen pre-COVID times," said Carly Swope, a community health worker with Hampton-based HELP, Inc.

Swope said Medicaid recipients should expect to get those renewal applications in the mail. She suggested everyone hop on commonhelp.virginia.gov to ensure addresses and phone numbers are up to date.

"Ideally for everyone, they should be getting on to make sure that information is up to date to prevent any errors or lapse in coverage," Swope said. 

Brackett with ForKids told 13News Now a significant increase to your income would likely make you ineligible now.

"It's still 138% of the federal poverty line, but during COVID there were adults who qualified for Medicaid that now ... may no longer qualify," Swope added. "So, there are going to be a lot of adults who may lose that Medicaid coverage, but their children may still be eligible."

Moreover, both women said families should not panic or worry, as searching for alternative options may be possible if they no longer qualify for Virginia Medicaid. 

"Virginia has really worked to try to expand Medicaid and with those exchange options for medical through the Affordable Care Act. There's going to be a plan that should be affordable for you and your family to cover those expenses," said Brackett. 

If you aren't sure what your renewal date is or need more information, you can call your local department of social services agency or Cover Virginia at 1-855-242-8282. 

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