BY: SUSAN TEBBEN – Ohio Capital Journal
A new study warns of a sharp rise in uninsured children in Ohio and across the country if pandemic-era coverage is allowed to fade away.
The Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families studied the impact of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid on bringing down state’s uninsured rate, finding that it “proved to be a critical lifeline for more than half of the nation’s children during the pandemic.”
Now that a March 2020 provision increasing the federal contribution to state Medicaid programs while requiring states to maintain continuous coverage for Medicaid patients during the COVID-19 public health emergency will be going away, the number of children falling under those protections will also be decreasing.
“These children are at grave risk of losing coverage inappropriately in states that do not handle the renewal process with the utmost care,” the study stated.
Because of a loss of income eligibility and “bureaucratic snafus,” the study estimates up to 6.7 million children in the U.S. will lose coverage because of the “unwinding” of pandemic-era programs, scheduled to happen on April 1.
“The uninsured rate for children could easily more than double if states have inadequate staffing levels and overwhelmed call centers and do not take the time and care needed to properly conduct eligibility checks after the federal protections lift,” the study stated.
From February 2020 to August 2022, Ohio saw a 26.7% increase in Medicaid and CHIP enrollment, ranking them 29th in the nation based on data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The share of enrollment made up by children in Ohio was 25.6%.
“As we begin the process of redetermining eligibility for the first time in three years, we must pay particular attention to children’s needs to minimize the number of children who lose coverage,” Kelly Vyzral, senior health policy associate for the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, said in response to the study.
The Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio said nearly half of children in Ohio are covered by Medicaid and other public health insurance programs. The study showed 54% of all American children are covered by Medicaid of CHIP.
Ohio already has the 12-month continuous Medicaid and CHIP child eligibility for those under age 19 recommended by the study to mitigate losses and gaps in coverage.
Continuous eligibility protects parents who see an increase in income during a 12-month period from losing child Medicaid or CHIP coverage.
Ohioans should verify contact information with local benefits offices or through the Medicaid patient portal to avoid cancellation of child insurance, Vyzral said.
Ohio must complete Medicaid eligibility checks by May 2024.
Susan Tebben is an award-winning journalist with a decade of experience covering Ohio news, including courts and crime, Appalachian social issues, government, education, diversity and culture. She has worked for The Newark Advocate, The Glasgow (KY) Daily Times, The Athens Messenger, and WOUB Public Media. She has also had work featured on National Public Radio.
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