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Advocates, Dems urge Medicaid funding


Advocates, Dems urge Medicaid funding

Apr 01, 2024 | 6:03 pm ET
By Lori Kersey
Advocates, Dems urge Medicaid funding
Ellen Allen, director of West Virginians for Affordable Health, speaks during news conference marking Medicaid Awareness Month Monday. The organization urge lawmakers to address a Medicaid shortfall in the fiscal year 2025 budget. [Screenshot from West Virginians for Affordable Health Care news conference]

With a special legislative session to address the state budget on the horizon, advocates for West Virginia Medicaid called on state policy makers Monday to fund the health care program.

Ellen Allen, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, said the organization wants to see the state fill a hole in the fiscal year 2025 shortfall and increase a tax for managed care organizations to fund the program into the future. The organization held a news conference to mark April as Medicaid Awareness Month. 

“Medicaid is the state’s largest health insurance program,” Allen said during the news conference. “We need it funded.”

She noted that the federal government matches every state dollar with nearly $3.

“Where can you get a better investment than that?” she said. 

According to an analysis by the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, the $4.997 billion “skinny” budget approved by state lawmakers for FY 2025 did not include Gov. Jim Justice’s proposed increased appropriations for Medicaid and an increase in tax for managed care organizations to fund the program into the future. That left the program with a $147 million state funding shortfall for fiscal year 2025. 

“Because Medicaid is a state-federal matching program, each dollar reduction in state funds forfeits federal dollars,” the Center on Budget and Policy said. “All told, the reduction in state Medicaid funding in the FY 2025 enacted budget compared with the governor’s budget proposal could reduce the total Medicaid budget by $628 million, or almost 12 percent of the entire Medicaid program.”

While the governor signed the budget into law, Justice also said he’d call a special session soon to address what he called a “dog’s mess” in the funding for the Department of Human Services. 

Allen called Medicaid a “really significant driver” of the state’s economy. 

“It’s interwoven in so many aspects of our lives,” she said. “It’s a vital program that I hope our lawmakers will do the right thing and fund.”

In a separate news conference focused on the upcoming special session Monday afternoon, Del. Mike Pushkin, D-Kanawha, said the approved budget included “drastic cuts” to the Medicaid waiver program for individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities, which he said was completely unacceptable.

“So we’re going to ask the governor to fix that,” Pushkin said. “Put that money back. Unfortunately those cuts to the IDD waiver program are just the tip of the Medicaid iceberg that’s been cut.”

Del. John Williams, (D-Monongalia) said when lawmakers return for an expected special session, funding for Medicaid “has to be a priority.”

“I can’t speak for all my colleagues but I’ll have a really hard time supporting any budget that doesn’t have a fully funded Medicaid program,” Williams said.