New Washington Medicaid director will ‘redetermine’ eligibility after pandemic emergency

[MM Curator Summary]: Congratulations to Dr. Fotinos who became the new WA Medicaid director.


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Lara Geyrozaga, a nurse with Project Vision Hawaii, administers a COVID-19 vaccine dose to Eileen Pelep at a vaccination clinic in Honolulu, on Wednesday, July 14, 2021. 

Jennifer Sinco Kelleher / AP

(The Center Square) – Dr. Charissa Fotinos has been appointed Washington state Medicaid director. One of her top priorities will be to “redetermine” Medicaid eligibility for Medicaid recipients once the public health emergency created by the pandemic comes to an end.

Washington Health Care Authority Director Sue Birch announced the selection in a statement praising Fotios’s qualifications. “Charissa is uniquely positioned for this new position, with her years of clinical, public health, and leadership experience,” Birch said in a statement.

Fotinos had been the program’s interim director for 10 months.

More than 2 million Washingtonians receive Medicaid benefits, which are called Apple Health in the state. That number has grown by more than 361,000 since March 2000.

An HCA spokesperson declined to estimate the number of Washingtonians who may lose Medicaid eligibility after the pandemic emergency, but said the agency will work to ensure a smooth transition to qualified health plans through the state Health Benefit Exchange.

Fotinos is a family practitioner whose specialty is addiction medicine. She previously served Public Health-Seattle & King County as chief medical officer and has been a faculty member at the Providence Family Medicine Residency Program.

While serving as Medicaid director, Fotinos will continue in her current position as behavioral health medical director for the HCA. The rationale for this dual role is to ensure an integrated approach to physical and behavioral health in the Medicaid program, a spokesperson for the HCA told The Center Square.

Medicaid is a federal and state program established in 1965 to fund medical benefits, including nursing home care, for people with low incomes. Approximately 58 million people in the United States were enrolled in Medicaid in 2020 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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