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Medicaid, exchange answers elude W.Va. lawmakers

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 11, 2013 at 6:58 pm •  Published: February 11, 2013

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin has yet to decide whether to open the Medicaid program to more lower-income residents, or how individuals and small businesses will seek coverage through the federal health care overhaul, administration officials told legislators Monday.

Several lawmakers questioned whether the Legislature should instead take the lead after seeking updates from Nancy Atkins, head of the agency that oversees Medicaid, and Jeremiah Samples, who's become in the in-house expert on the federal law for the state Insurance Commission.

Sen. Evan Jenkins, a Cabell County Democrat, noted that the 60-day legislative session begins Wednesday. Jenkins, executive director of the West Virginia State Medical Association, which represents physicians, asked whether the session might end in April without answers.

"I'm trying to figure out to what extent the Legislature can or should be proactive and engaged in the decision process, or should we just sit back and wait to hear from the administration," Jenkins said.

Atkins said Tomblin, a Democrat, awaits results from an analysis of the possible costs and benefits from expanding Medicaid.

"I might remind you that actuarial study was requested by the Legislature," said Aktins, commissioner of the Bureau of Medical Services.

The federal law calls for states to offer Medicaid to adults with unadjusted annual household incomes of up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level. That's a far higher income level than West Virginia currently allows, and amounts to about $31,800 for a family of four. An estimated 130,000 West Virginians would gain coverage.

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