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    State report shows most Virginians on Medicaid can’t access prenatal services

    By Tyler Englander,

    11 days ago

    RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Advocates are calling on Virginia to do more to help those on Medicaid access prenatal services. It comes after a state report found that many of the prenatal providers supposedly covered by Medicaid aren’t offering services.

    In Virginia, most people receive Medicaid services through Managed Care Organizations (MCOs). They’re insurance companies that the state pays to help cover medical expenses for low-income Virginians. However, the report found that people covered by those MCOs are having a hard time accessing prenatal care.

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    “After how many calls, rejections or disconnected phone calls does someone decide to see if a medical concern just goes away on its own? Or, they think to themself, maybe a costly visit to the emergency department is my only option,” said Freddy Mejia with the Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis.

    The study was commissioned by the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services, the agency responsible for running the state’s Medicaid program. It utilized “secret shoppers,” who would call providers listed by MCOs as providing prenatal services. They found that prospective patients couldn’t get an appointment at 95% of these locations.

    “It sickens me to think what it must feel like to be pregnant, dealing with the anxieties that come along with pregnancy, getting a referral to a place that should provide care only to be faced with multiple obstacles,” said Lakeisha Cook with Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

    The report cites several reasons for the lack of appointments including that providers could not be reached, didn’t offer prenatal services or were not accepting new patients.

    Meanwhile, those who did get appointments didn’t fare all that well either.

    “The average wait times for the first, second and third trimester appointments were 14, 13 and 17 calendar days, respectively,” said Victoria Richardson with the Virginia Poverty Law Center. “Imagine having to wait 17 days for a third-trimester appointment.”

    In a statement, a lobby group for MCOs told News Channel 11’s sister station in Richmond that the survey “does not reflect the experience of most Medicaid members.”

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