ST THOMAS, USVI -- Governor John de Jongh has announced that a team of US Virgin Islands officials will share with the rest of the country the story of a historic partnership between the territory and the state of West Virginia to integrate a Medicaid Management Information System (MMIS).
The delegation, led by Human Services Commissioner Christopher Finch, will discuss the challenges, successes, and benefits of the territory’s integration into West Virginia’s MMIS during a panel discussion on Wednesday at the Medicaid Enterprises System Conference in Charleston, South Carolina. They panel will include representatives of the West Virginia Department of Health and Molina Medicaid Solutions, the system’s vendor.
The territory’s connection to the state-of-the-art claims system was forged out of a first-of-its-kind partnership aimed at leveraging fiscal and information technology resources.
“From the moment of conception, this project has presented us with an exciting process and partnership. To now be held up as a national model of cooperation and progress is a testament to the work of so many people in the Virgin Islands and West Virginia who dedicated their talents and energies to successfully implementing the vision formed in 2008,” de Jongh said.
The project was born out of an informal conversation de Jongh had with former West Virginia governor and current US Senator Joseph Manchin III during the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) meeting the Virgin Islands hosted in 2008. De Jongh described the territory's challenges, and Manchin, who at the time was serving as head of the DGA, revealed his state was developing its Medicaid system and might be able to help.
“We proved that a territory can partner with a state, and now the federal government, through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is extremely interested in our approach, viewing it as an example that will benefit other such partnerships across the country by simplifying the administration of Medicaid programs by removing redundancies,” de Jongh said.
The territory’s new MMIS went live on August 1, but minor modifications will continue for a few months as part of a rollout process to get the system just right.
Sharing infrastructure and resources, and taking advantage of another state’s experiences and capabilities, allows the US Virgin Islands to keep pace with modern developments in Medicaid administration. The territory had been struggling with outdated software and manual processes that were delaying services and limiting growth. The link to the West Virginia system allows payments to doctors, hospital and clinics to be completed within days, accurately and meeting all federal standards. It also provides superior real-time information about the program’s expenditures.
“If the program was going to grow and cover more Virgin Islanders, this was absolutely essential,” said Taetia Phillips-Dorsett, the territory’s healthcare reform coordinator, in regard to a planned Medicaid expansion as part of the Affordable Care Act.
The next improvement to be implemented will involve the eligiblity and enrollment system for various services, allowing people to easily learn what programs they are eligible for and complete the eligibility process, Phillips-Dorsett said.
“There’s enough interest in what we are doing now with MMIS that we have been given an opportunity to present to the national conference and roll it out for the whole country to see,” she said.