More than one million US children have lost health insurance coverage over the last two years.
An analysis from The New York Times found that these children were dropped from the two primary programs meant to cover low-income families – Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program – between December 2017 and June 2019.
Worst of all, many parents are unaware their children are no longer insured until they bring their kids to a doctor’s appointment or rush their children to the hospital in an emergency.
Officials say uninsured rates are dropping because the economy is improving and, as unemployment falls, families are being covered by private insurance.
But health policy experts counter that it’s not a shift in where people get their insurance, but a cascade of administrative and political barriers.
They argue that many kids are losing their insurance due to new paperwork, an new series of red tape and hoops that families have to jump through to prove their eligibility, computer system glitches and fear among immigrants that signing their children up could mean deportation.
More than one million American children were dropped from either Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program between December 2017 and June 2019 (file image)
The analysis found that the 10 states where the uninsured rates for children have risen the most are Tennessee, Georgia, Texas, Idaho, Utah, Montana, West Virginia, Ohio, Nevada and Florida.
Most of these states have not adopted or implemented the Medicaid expansion mandated by the Affordable Care Act, but it’s not clear what the other commonalities are.
In Tennessee, around 128,000 children have been wiped from state insurance programs for low-income families, reported The Tennessean.
One reason is a computer glitch. When the state updated its enrollment computer system, there was a malfunction that caused thousands of errors
According to the Georgetown Center for Children and Families (GCCF), this led to a drop of more than 55,000 children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP in the state since January 2018.
It was also affected – as was Texas – by new rules that check the eligibility of a family more frequently.
A study from the GCCF found that 146,000 fewer children in Texas were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP from the end of 2017 to the end of 2018.
The Times cited new paperwork requirements, which began in 2014, as one of the reasons why.
Most states check a family’s eligibility once a year. But, in Texas, kids are enrolled for six months and then a family’s eligibility is checked for the next four months in a row.
Families who are deemed ineligible are then sent a notice by mail and given 10 days to prove that their income is too low. If not, they lose Medicaid.
In some cases, children were dropped from insurance before the notice even arrived by mail.
In states with large immigrant populations, like Florida, parents are fearful of signing their children – who are citizens – up for health care services and other government programs.
Recently, the Trump administration proposed a rule that stated if a green card applicant uses many government services for an aggregate of 12 months, the person is considered a public charge.
Therefore, officials could deny them a green card.
Currently, the rule is being blocked by a federal judge and did go into effect in October as planned.
However, families now fear that enrolling their children in Medicaid or CHIP may risk their chances of not getting a green card or being deported.
Several studies have found that those who received Medicaid coverage as children have better outcomes later in life.
A 2014 study from the University of Michigan found that pregnant women who got pre-natal coverage had children who were less likely to be obese as adults.
And a 2015 study from National Bureau of Economic Research found that blacks who had more years of being covered by Medicaid as children had fewer visits to the emergency room as adults.
‘It’s extremely troubling that the United States is going backwards on this key child health metric during the Trump Administration,’ Joan Alker, executive director of GCCF, wrote in a statement to DailyMail.com.
‘When children have health coverage, they miss less school, are more likely to graduate from high school and grow up to be healthier and more productive adults.
‘For many years there has been a bipartisan commitment to reducing the number of uninsured children – but today that seems to be in peril.’