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HomeNewsRegional NewsMass Medicaid Terminations in USVI Leaves 16,480 Without Healthcare, Lawmakers Fear Health...

Mass Medicaid Terminations in USVI Leaves 16,480 Without Healthcare, Lawmakers Fear Health Crisis

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by Tsehai Alfred (VI Consortium) Thousands of Virgin Islands residents have been removed from the Medicaid program as of last month, according to legislative testimony from Department of Human Services Commissioner Averil George. The disclosure prompted concern from lawmakers about health accessibility and costs for residents.

“The testimony today is saying there’s 21,463 [currently enrolled] that means in the last month 16,480 persons, which is 19% of our population, has lost Medicaid insurance,” noted Senator Ray Fonseca during last week’s Committee of the Whole meeting. The disclosure came during DHS’s request for the 35th Legislature’s Committee of the Whole to appropriate $3 million to “support a shortfall” in local matching funds, and to “support the continued operation of the Medicaid program,” according to Ms. George.

Although the Legislature approved the request, lawmakers including Mr. Fonseca remained worried that the $3 million will not be sufficient to support those who have been removed from the program, likely resulting in a cost to the state.

“Many of them go to the hospital or our health clinics [with] uncompensated care. So guess what? The money still comes out of the general fund,” observed Senator Marvin Blyden. According to Mr. Blyden, when it comes to Medicaid, a “single mother will not qualify if she makes minimum wage,” given that the current maximum income eligibility for an individual is $15,660 a year – $31,932 a year for a family of four.‌

While legislators described low-income eligibility cut-offs, Assistant DHS Commissioner Denelle Baptiste said the decrease in recipients is mostly due to an increase in income. According to the USVI’s Medicaid director Gary Smith, the thousands removed were largely the result of an audit conducted after the territory recorded an increase in Medicaid recipients due to special pandemic-driven benefits. After the COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency ended in June of 2023, members of the program were mandated to recertify recipients, dropping enrollment by 44%.

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