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Federal Public Health Emergency Planning

NEWS UPDATE: The U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra has formally extended the Federal Public Health Emergency (PHE). The extension is effective October 18, 2021 – January 16, 2022. Read this page to learn more about the PHE and the Medicaid agency’s work to ensure that eligible Virginians continue to have access to high quality health care coverage.

The PHE is important because:

  • It allows the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services (DMAS) to continue members’ Medicaid coverage even if their eligibility status changes.
  • It allows DMAS to create helpful policies, flexibilities and waivers to support our members and providers.
  • It makes federal funding available to states facing historic and unpredictable economic pressures.

HHS Secretary Becerra can extend the PHE for 90 days at a time. HHS can choose to continue the PHE after January 16, 2022.

No one knows how long the PHE may last. We need to prepare now. Once the PHE ends, Virginia will have 12 months to review Medicaid coverage for all members. We want all eligible Virginians to keep their health coverage. We will need the support of our health care advocates to achieve this goal.

Once we know when the PHE will end, we will tell our members and partners. You can help our members take steps now to get ready. To make sure our members receive important paperwork, we need their up-to-date mailing addresses and phone numbers. Members can make updates:

  • Online at commonhelp.virginia.gov,
  • By calling their local Department of Social Services, or
  • By calling Virginia’s One Benefits line at 1-833-5CALLVA.

To learn more, go to coverva.org/en/covid-19. This web page has resources for members, stakeholders, and partners as the Department plans for the end of the PHE.

We will share information for providers on our agency website, dmas.virginia.gov/covid-19-response/.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What is the PHE and how does it affect members?

The federal government declared a public health emergency (PHE) when the COVID-19 pandemic began. During the PHE, state agencies must continue health care coverage for all medical assistance programs, even if someone's eligibility changes.

Our Medicaid members will stay covered during the PHE so they have access to health care during this challenging time.

How long will the PHE last?

No one knows when the PHE will end. The federal government has continued to extend the COVID-19 PHE since it took effect in March 2020. The PHE is now effective through January 16, 2022.

What will happen when the PHE ends?

We don't know how long the PHE may last, so we need to prepare now. Once we know when it will end, we will tell our members and partners. We expect guidance from our federal partners on what we will need to do. This is what we know now:

  • Coverage for all members will be re-determined in the 12 months after the month the PHE ends.
  • We will not take any negative action to cancel or reduce coverage for our members without asking for updated information.
  • At the end of the quarter in which the PHE ends, Virginia will stop getting extra federal funding.

What if members lose their coverage?

We want all eligible Virginians to get and stay covered. If a member no longer qualifies for health coverage from Virginia Medicaid, they will get:

  • Notice of when the Medicaid coverage will end,
  • Information on how to file an appeal if the member thinks our decision was incorrect, and
  • A referral to the Federal Marketplace and information about buying other health care coverage.

What can members do now?

Members can:

  • Update their contact information in commonhelp.virginia.gov.  We must have a current mailing address on file, so members receive important paperwork.  
  • Sign up for our electronic newsletter and follow us on social media to get updates.
  • Watch for and respond quickly to notices about their coverage.

We will post information, resources and tools online:

What are the other health care coverage choices?

Virginians who do not qualify for Virginia Medicaid can buy health insurance through Enroll Virginia. It is a network of community-based organizations committed to helping Virginians get high quality, affordable health coverage. They can sign up for insurance on the Federal Marketplace:

  • Within 60 days of losing their health coverage
    or
  • Anytime during the open enrollment period from November 1 through January 15

Individuals who do not qualify for health coverage from Virginia Medicaid may be able to get financial help to lower the cost of private health insurance through HealthCare.gov. The amount of financial help is based on the cost of the premiums where the applicant lives, how many people are in their household, and their estimated yearly income.

Learn more at enrollva.org or 888-392-5132:

  • Get expert help from trained and certified navigators and enrollment experts to sign up for health coverage online or in person.
  • Browse plans and costs with an easy, anonymous online tool.
  • Find out how much financial help you may qualify to receive.
  • Get enrolled!

How will DMAS work with its partners?

  • We will work closely with our clinical and eligibility partners to re-determine members' eligibility and only disenroll those who are not eligible at the end of the PHE.
  • We will properly give notice to all members whose eligibility ends or changes at the end of the PHE about changes to their benefits or enrollment status, including appeal information.
  • We will work closely with Enroll Virginia and its network to connect Virginians to other health coverage options.

How can I get more information?

The Agency will continue to inform members through the Medicaid newsletter, coverva.gov, commonhelp.virginia.gov, emails, text messages and social media.

We will also provide policy and operational information to our partners through stakeholder meetings, at dmas.virginia.gov/covid-19-response/ and through our Partner Points newsletter.

Background Resources

Member Communications

Provider Guidance