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VCU to lead evaluation of Virginia Medicaid expansion

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Peter Cunningham, Ph.D.
Peter Cunningham, Ph.D.

The Department of Medical Assistance Services has selected a team of Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine faculty members to lead a multiyear evaluation of Medicaid expansion in the state. In June, Virginia expanded Medicaid coverage for up to 400,000 low-income Virginians.

“Leading the evaluation of this landmark state health policy is an acknowledgement of VCU’s multidisciplinary expertise in health care policy and clinical care research, and it supports our core mission of being of service to communities across the commonwealth,” said Peter Buckley, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine.

Through the analysis of Medicaid claims data, patient surveys, and other state and national data sources, VCU faculty members will assess changes in health insurance coverage, access to care, and diagnoses and treatment of chronic medical and behavioral health conditions among patients following the expansion.

Andrew J. Barnes, Ph.D.
Andrew J. Barnes, Ph.D.

“The 2018 Medicaid expansion was the largest expansion of health insurance coverage in Virginia’s history,” said Peter Cunningham, Ph.D., professor in the VCU School of Medicine’s Department of Health Behavior and Policy. “We are well-positioned to assess and document the profound impact that the expansion will have to health care access for Virginians, and on Virginia health systems.”

Cunningham will lead the evaluation with Andrew Barnes, Ph.D., also from the Department of Health Behavior and Policy, and Alex Krist, M.D., from the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health.

The evaluation team will assist the Department of Medical Assistance Services with the development of online dashboards that will track key measures of Medicaid enrollment, utilization of services, and treatment for certain conditions, including behavioral health and addiction disorders. “Tracking key measurements of coverage and access in real time is crucial for informing policymakers and the public on Medicaid expansion progress,” Barnes said.

Alex Krist, M.D.
Alex Krist, M.D.

The evaluation will include assessing the impact of Medicaid expansion on health systems. A particular focus will be the capacity of the primary care and behavioral health system to accommodate the expected increase in demand for care from Medicaid expansion.

“We already know there are shortages of primary care and behavioral health care providers in some parts of the state, so it will be important to assess whether providers are ready for Medicaid expansion and to advise the state on the steps they should take to increase capacity,” Krist said.

In addition to evaluating Medicaid expansion in the state, VCU is leading evaluation of two Medicaid programs — Addiction and Recovery Treatment Services and Commonwealth Coordinated Care Plus

“Through the Medicaid expansion evaluation project and others, VCU has developed a strong partnership with the state that demonstrates our leadership in informing policymakers and legislators on crucial health and health policy issues,” Buckley said.  

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 217 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Thirty-eight of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 11 schools and three colleges. The VCU Health brand represents the VCU health sciences academic programs, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center and Level I trauma center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.