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Virginia Medicaid expansion will benefit significant underserved populations, Mason experts say

May 31, 2018

Alison Cuellar

After much debate, Virginia is now set to expand Medicaid to roughly 400,000 Virginians. Among that number are the state’s vulnerable populations and those involved in the justice system.

Alison Cuellar, professor of health administration and policy in the College of Health and Human Services and an expert in Medicaid policy, said the justice system is interested in Medicaid as being influential in lowering arrests and instead helping people find treatment, especially in areas of high substance abuse and untreated mental health health.

“Medicaid has been instrumental in improving access to mental health care, including kids in the juvenile justice and child welfare systems,” said Cuellar. “It has the ability to pay for treatment and additional social supports that families need.”

Cuellar added that Medicaid has the potential to be beneficial to rural healthcare systems in Virginia, where the opioid crisis has made a significant impact. Providing care for addiction, especially to opioids, will in turn keep more people out of jail.

"We know from national data that where Medicaid has expanded there have been fewer hospital closures in rural areas,” said Cuellar. “Hospitals tend to be large employers in their rural communities, and they face a lot of financial challenges, more so in states that haven't expanded Medicaid.”

Associate professor Rebecca Sutter also sees the benefits Medicaid has for vulnerable populations. As the clinic director for the Mason and Partners Clinic (MAP), she serves the uninsured, immigrant and refugee community within Prince William and Fairfax counties.

Rebecca Sutter

“We know that improving people’s health and better managing health care costs begins with people having coverage and access to quality care so they can stay healthy and avoid more costly care, such as emergency room visits or delay in management of chronic disease conditions such as hypertension or diabetes,” Sutter said.

Sutter recently received a grant from the Health Resource and Services Administration to better prepare Mason’s BSN students in an attempt to address health disparities for underserved rural populations.

Alison Cuellar is a professor of health administration and policy. She has extensive research experience in healthcare systems, Medicaid and vulnerable populations. She has examined Medicaid policies and their impact on justice-involved youth, youth with behavioral problems and healthcare services for incarcerated youth and adults returning to the community, as well as the elderly and people with disabilities who receive long-term services and supports through Medicaid. Reach her at 703-993-5048 or aevanscu@gmail.com.

Rebecca Sutter serves as the Mason and Partners Clinic director and has successfully launched numerous academic nurse-managed health centers where she has become an expert in the bridge model of care. Reach her at 703-993-3611 or rsutter2@gmu.edu.

For more information contact Mary Lee Clark, 703-993-5118 or mclark35@gmu.edu.

About George Mason 

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls over 36,000 students from 130 countries and 49 states and Washington, D.C. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.