Virginia Governor Youngkin proposes amendment to 'stopgap' budget to include Medicaid renewal

Recent action by Congress ends the continuous coverage provision effective April 1 and requires states to complete eligibility checks for the millions of people enrolled in Medicaid.

Published: March 30, 2023 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

As Virginia resumes the Medicaid renewal process that was paused during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Glenn Youngkin is asking the General Assembly to amend the "skinny" budget passed during the legislative session to include millions in funding from the American Rescue Plan Act to support the process.

The General Assembly adjourned at the end of February without a finalized budget. Instead, lawmakers approved a “stopgap” budget bill that included just a few items, including funding to address a calculation error that overstated the amount of state aid Virginia schools could expect to receive.

Lawmakers are set to return to Richmond next month for a one-day reconvened session where they will consider Youngkin’s veto on three bills and proposed amendments to 78 other measures.

Youngkin has asked the legislature to consider a few amendments to the stopgap budget as negotiations over final amendments to the biennial budget continue. Without a clear timeline of when lawmakers will agree on amendments to the state's two-year budget, Youngkin said his amendments are "limited to technical adjustments for time-constrained programs and funding purposes."

One of the governor's amendments recommends the inclusion of $38 million in American Rescue Plan Act State and Local Fiscal Recovery funds to support state agencies as they complete the federally-mandated Medicaid renewal process.

During the pandemic, Congress enacted a continuous coverage provision for Medicaid, which halted eligibility reviews and prohibited states from removing anyone’s coverage. But recent action by Congress ends the continuous coverage provision effective April 1 and requires states to complete eligibility checks for the millions of people enrolled in Medicaid by May 2024.

The Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services estimates 14% of Medicaid enrollees will lose coverage due to no longer being eligible, while an additional 4% will lose coverage but will be eligible to re-enroll within a few months, as previously reported by The Center Square. The Department of Social Services said Medicaid disenrollment will begin no sooner than April 30.

In his proposed amendment to the stopgap budget, Youngkin is specifically requesting $28 million in Coronavirus State and Local Recovery Funds for the Department of Medical Assistance Services to procure a one-time vendor to assist in the required Medicaid review process. The governor's initial budget proposal included $20 million for DMAS to acquire a vendor.

The governor is also seeking $10 million for the Department of Social Services to cover the one-time costs of “supporting local departments of social services staff” as they conduct Medicaid eligibility reviews. This differs slightly from language in the governor’s initial budget proposal, which would have required the $10 million be used specifically for overtime pay.

Advocates have raised concern about staffing shortages in local departments of social services, noting that the increased workload associated with eligibility checks for all Virginians receiving coverage through Medicaid could pose challenges.

Sara Cariano, a senior health and policy analyst at the Virginia Poverty Law Center, told The Center Square in an email that she hopes the broader language associated with the $10 million in funding will allow the Department of Social Services “to provide additional staff and support to local agencies through unwinding through other mechanisms, such as bringing on part-time workers or even hourly state employees to do administrative functions like opening mail and data entry.”

As budget wranglers in the General Assembly continue to work for a compromise on amendments to the state’s two-year budget, Cariano said amending the skinny budget passed in February would give agencies access to the money sooner rather than later.

“Since we currently just have the slim budget that was passed and there doesn't seem to be a broader compromise on the horizon, it would allow the state agencies to access the [funding] sooner rather than waiting for all budget negotiations to be completed,” Cariano said.

Lawmakers are slated to return to Richmond April 12 to vote on the governor’s recommendations and consider his vetoes.

In a message to the legislature, Youngkin commended the General Assembly for passing the stopgap budget, but said "it does not mark the end of this session’s work."

"I look forward to working with the General Assembly to develop a budget that provides $1 billion in tax relief for Virginians and delivers over $2.6 billion for our shared goals of job growth, public safety, education excellence, and behavioral health services," Youngkin wrote.

Earlier this month, lawmakers told The Center Square that budget negotiations between the House and Senate remained divided by Youngkin's proposed $1 billion in tax cuts. Republicans have largely voiced support for the tax cuts, while Democratic lawmakers have argued the funding should be spent on education, behavioral health and other state priorities.

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