NORFOLK, Va. (WVEC) — Optima Health is adding 197 jobs in anticipation of the increased workload due to Virginia's expansion of Medicaid earlier this month.

Open enrollment for Medicaid expansion began on November 1, and Optima Health leaders project that 400,000 people across Virginia are now eligible to enroll in Medicaid benefits.

Out of that number, 50,000 people in Hampton Roads could apply for Medicaid benefits, Optima Health Vice President of Community Care Randy Ricker said.

"In order to meet their diverse needs we're going to need to bring on nurses, licensed clinical social workers, call center operators and people paying claims," Ricker said.

Ricker said the state's decision to expand Medicaid had a direct impact on the need for Optima Health to hire more workers, as Optima Health now expects to serve more people in the coming months.

"In addition to all of the Virginians who will be getting healthcare services now, the nice byproduct of this is we are hiring more Virginians to serve those people so it has a nice dual impact," he said.

The company is building a workplace for many of the 197 new employees at the Optima Health offices at the Military Circle Mall in Norfolk. Crews knocked out walls in recent months and are building cubicles and offices for workers.

"We're about at 80 percent of the folks we need to hire, and there's a lot of hiring going on in Virginia right now," Ricker said.

Anyone looking to explore eligibility for Medicaid benefits can visit Ricker said the addition fo the Optima Health employees will help connect Virginia residents with needed information and services.

"Now, we get to serve and care for more people, which is what Medicaid expansion is really about," he said.

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