Free Clinic Expands Eligibility For Services

By LAINE GRIFFIN
Daily News-Record  1/5/19
 
HARRISONBURG — With most of its patients now covered by Medicaid, the Harrisonburg- Rockingham Free Clinic has changed its income eligibility requirements.
The nonprofit health center’s board voted Dec. 28 to increase its income threshold for patients from 200 percent to 300 percent of the federal poverty level.
In 2018, the federal poverty level for individuals was an annual income of $12,140 and $25,100 for a family of four, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Medicaid expansion took effect on Tuesday with the start of the new year. The General Assembly voted to join 32 other states in expanding the state- federal health care program under the Affordable Care Act.
The state’s Medicaid office worked with hospitals, advocates for the poor, insurance companies and others to help enroll the newly eligible into Medicaid, The Associated Press reported last week. The state said more than 200,000 people have been enrolled.
It is open to people with income up to 138 percent of poverty level, or about $16,750 for individuals and about $34,600 for a family of four.
About 90 percent of the Harrisonburg-Rockingham Free Clinic’s patients became eligible, according to Summer Sage, its executive director. The clinic treated 634 uninsured patients in2018. Nearly 7,000 new Medicaid enrollees are expected in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.
Sage said the clinic is looking to identify people who remain uninsured and ineligible for Medicaid.
“When we provide access to primary care, we give people the opportunity to grow and be greater participants in the community and be able to maintain their health and be an asset to the community,” she said. The clinic worked with United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County to identify the number of households in the city and county classified as Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.
The ALICE population includes individuals and families who earn more than the federal poverty level but less than the basic cost of living.
According to 2016 data, the most recent available, Rockingham County had 8,895 such households.
In Harrisonburg, there were 5,581 ALICE households, excluding residences of people younger than 25.
According to Laura Toni-Holsinger, executive director of the local United Way chapter, there are 2,874 households managed in the city by someone 24 or younger.
“The reason we collected data this way is because with James Madison University being in the city, the number of students living off campus in the city can present a different picture,” she said. “There are plenty of students who are supporting themselves, but we don’t have the ability to distinguish them from the entire number.”
Toni-Holsinger said the data will help determine who is covered by Medicaid and who is “falling through the cracks.”
Sage said the clinic will work with people to get health services even if they aren’t eligible to be patients at the clinic.
“We want to help more people find free health care,” she said. “If they don’t meet our requirements, we want to help navigate them to where they can access health care.”