New COVIDWISE App Helps Minimize the Spread of COVID-19

In August, Governor Northam unveiled Virginia’s new COVIDWISE app to help minimize the spread of COVID-19 by notifying users when they have been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The app is free. Virginia is the first state in the country to launch it.

Once a person downloads the app, it will notify users if someone with whom they come into close contact has tested positive for COVID-19. For this to work, the person with COVID must voluntarily provide that info to the app. The app will be able to determine who has had sufficient contact with a COVID-infected person to put themselves at risk, using anonymous data about distance and length of contact exchanged between the two users’ phones via Bluetooth technology.

COVIDWISE does not collect, use, or store any personal identifiable information or location data. Neither the user’s identity nor location is shared by the app with the Virginia Department of Health or other app users. Since the exposure notification system is based on Bluetooth, it does not collect any location data. Additionally, the app currently has English and Spanish language options, and is designed to use very little battery power and minimal amounts of data. For more privacy and accessibility FAQs, visit VDH’s website here.

For the app to be most effective in reducing the spread of Covid-19, it is important to maximize the number of individuals who download it to their phones and enable it.  Please download the app to your phone today (via the App Store or Google Play) and promote it among your staff, volunteers, patients, and community partners. It’s an easy way for each of us to contribute to slowing the spread of COVID-19! VDH even has a Social Media Toolkit to make it simple to share via your social media channels, website, email signatures, newsletters, and more.

NEW Resource to Help Virginians Deal with COVID-19 Stresses

A new warmline, VA COPES, is now available to all Virginia residents who may be struggling to cope with the effects and circumstances (such as isolation, fear, grief, and anxiety) around COVID-19. It can provide peer support; help identify coping strategies, local resources, and support groups; and offer mental health help.

VA COPES crisis counselors are available Monday-Friday 9am-9pm and Saturday-Sunday 5pm-9pm. They can be reached by phone or text at 877-349-6428. Spanish-speaking counselors are available.

VA COPES is a warmline is (not a hotline, which is for individuals in need of emergency services). If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Crisis Hotlines at 1-800-273-8255 or 911.

Updates to Medicaid/FAMIS Policy & Procedures During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE)

Who Can Lose Coverage During the PHE?
Due to an update in federal guidance, local Departments of Social Services (LDSS) may close cases in the following circumstances, if they are no longer eligible for Medicaid/FAMIS, effective August 1:
  • FAMIS or FAMIS Plus-enrolled children who “age out” of eligibility (i.e., turn 19), and Medicaid for Pregnant Women (MPW)-enrolled women who have reached 60 days postpartum, and do not have the 5 years and/or 40 work quarters required for them to be eligible for New Health Coverage for Adults.

  • FAMIS MOMS-enrolled women who have reached 60 days postpartum.

LDSS should always assess someone for eligibility in another Medicaid/FAMIS category before terminating him/her.

Given the economic effects of COVID-19, many postpartum women in FAMIS MOMS, and kids aging out of FAMIS, may now be eligible for the New Health Coverage for Adults. They should update their income if it has decreased. Kids aging out of FAMIS may also have a different household size, if they are no longer living with their parents.
Any individual who is no longer eligible for Medicaid/FAMIS and is terminated, is eligible for a Special Enrollment Period (SEP) on the Health Insurance Marketplace. Click here to find a Certified Application Counselor (CAC) or Navigator, who can help these folks enroll in Marketplace coverage.

Renewals during the PHE
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ declaration of a PHE due to the COVID-19 pandemic is set to expire on October 23, 2020. Changes to Medicaid/FAMIS enrollment and eligibility policy due to the PHE will continue until the end of October, including the policy dictating that no Medicaid cases should be closed due to a member’s failure to renew. Under the PHE policy changes, most Medicaid members will retain coverage unless the member:
  • Dies,
  • Moves permanently out of Virginia, or
  • Requests his/her case be closed.

The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) will continue to renew Medicaid/FAMIS members through the ex parte (automatic) process, when possible. Those who are aware of their renewal dates (or who receive a renewal packet by US mail) who can complete their renewals are encouraged to do so. Failing to renew will not cause their coverage to end during the PHE. Ex parte renewals are being completed and renewal packets are being processed to minimize backlogs and processing delays when the PHE ends.
Health Insurance Marketplace News
Open Enrollment for the Health Insurance Marketplace is coming soon (November 1 – December 15). If you or someone you know gets coverage through the Marketplace, now is the perfect time to think about whether your current plan fits your needs and budget for 2021.

Three exciting changes are coming for Virginians who get their health insurance through!

NEW Special Enrollment Period available for those affected by COVID-19
On the Marketplace, most individuals and families need to select a plan during the annual Open Enrollment Period (November 1 – December 15 each year). Outside of the Open Enrollment Period, certain life changes or special circumstances can give an individual/family the ability to enroll outside of Open Enrollment, via a Special Enrollment Period (SEP).

The Marketplace recently added a SEP for those who, despite qualifying for another SEP of some kind, were unable to enroll in coverage through the Marketplace due to COVID-19. Depending upon the circumstances of his/her original SEP, the applicant may need to call the Marketplace call center at 1-800-318-2596 to get covered through the COVID-19 “FEMA” SEP.

Additional details on this “FEMA SEP” are available here. Have questions about the FEMA SEP, or about the Marketplace? The ENROLL Virginia! Navigator program is happy to help! You can reach an ENROLL Virginia! Navigator at 1-888-392-5132.

Virginia Transitioning to a State-Based Marketplace
Since October 2013, those needing health insurance through the Marketplace have shopped on, the platform used by states with Federally-Facilitated Marketplaces (FFMs). Beginning November 1, 2020, Virginia will begin the process of transitioning to a State-Based Exchange (SBE), which will give the state greater flexibility in making decisions about plans and consumer assistance. The transition is expected to be completed in 2022.

What does this mean? Virginia, not the Federal Government, is responsible for certifying Navigators and Certified Application Counselors, who will help Virginians apply for and enroll in Marketplace coverage. The transition to a SBE also means Virginia will have additional money available for outreach, and will be able to deploy more Navigators. SignUpNow will continue to keep you in the loop as more details are available.

Navigator Grants Announced!
To help Virginians understand their choices on the Health Insurance Marketplace, Virginia’s State-Based Exchange (SBE) has awarded Navigator grants to two organizations with a long history of serving as Navigators. The Virginia Poverty Law Center (VPLC) was awarded $1.49 million to continue its ENROLL Virginia! Navigator program, and Boat People SOS, Inc. (BPSOS) was awarded $365,000.
ENROLL Virginia! is a statewide consortium of community-based and consumer-focused nonprofits that educates Virginians about the health insurance marketplace. BPSOS is a national nonprofit headquartered in Northern Virginia with a focus on serving the Asian-American community in that area.

Read the official funding announcement about Virginia’s Navigator grants here.

Live, Virtual SignUpNow Workshops Underway!

Due to popular demand, the Virginia Health Care Foundation (VHCF) has added additional capacity to its live, virtual SignUpNow workshops!

SignUpNow workshops highlight important changes to Medicaid/FAMIS in light of the Public Health Emergency, as well as the "ins and outs" of the eligibility requirements, application procedures, and post-enrollment information for Virginia's Medicaid/FAMIS programs:
  • New adult coverage
  • Programs for children and pregnant women (the FAMIS programs)
  • Low Income Families and Children (LIFC) program
  • Medicaid for Former Foster Care Youth
  • Plan First (family planning)

Thousands of Virginians are newly unemployed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are newly eligible for Medicaid/FAMIS, and they may not be familiar with the programs (or, may not think they qualify). Get the essential information you need to help them and their families apply for Medicaid/FAMIS health insurance.

Register to attend a live, interactive SignUpNow workshop at Registration will close one week before each training date, so workshop materials can be sent to attendees via US Mail. So, don’t delay…register now!

NEW DentaQuest Find-a-Provider Tool Launched

The DentaQuest Find-a-Provider tool has been re-vamped to provide a more user-friendly experience with finding a dentist in the Smiles For Children network. Check out the new tool at To use the tool:

1.   Enter your address, the name of your city, or your zip code. Or, click on “use your current location.”

2.   Click on “All Plans,” and select Smiles for Children in the drop-down menu. Then, you’ll have the following options to search:
  • Find a Dentist by Name – If you know the name of the dentist you want, enter their last name in the search bar. Click on the name when it shows up below the search bar.
  • Find a Dentist by Specialty – If you want to find a specific kind of dentist like a general dentist or orthodontist, choose this option. Just start entering the type of dentist you want. The search bar will show suggestions to help as you type.
  • Find Services by Location – Use this if you know the name of the dentist office or care center and would like to know the address, phone number, office hours and other information.
  • Places by Type – Use this to look for locations like dental offices, care centers, and health care clinics.

No matter which way you search, you can get more information on the dentists like their hours, whether they are accepting new patients or are wheelchair accessible. The names of all dentists and dental specialists in the Smiles For Children program are available online here.

Smiles For Children is Virginia’s Medicaid and FAMIS dental program for children and adults. For information about Smiles For Children, or to find a dentist in your area, call toll-free: 1-888-912-3456.

NEW Spanish Language Ads

The Department of Medical Assistance Services released two new Spanish language ads that appeared on select Spanish television stations in Virginia during the month of September. The 30 second and 15 second ads are exclusively aimed at encouraging Spanish speaking individuals and families to apply for health coverage. Please share these resources widely.