After years of progress improving children’s health coverage, recently released data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) show we are losing ground: an estimated 840,000 fewer children were covered by Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 2018 compared with the year before. While CMS only reported data for 48 states, our friends at the Georgetown Center for Children and Families took a look at state data for the three missing states to get the full picture. We fear these declines are not due to an improving economy as the Administration has suggested, but rather a result of the Trump Administration’s many and deliberate efforts to undermine public health coverage, onerous red tape being added to eligibility and enrollment processes in some states, and fear in immigrant communities about enrolling in coverage as a result of Administration proposals. While there is still a lot to learn as to exactly why children’s coverage is moving in the wrong direction, what is clear is that this news is a huge step backwards for children. In response, today we joined with our national child health partners to issue the following statement:
“After years of progress improving children’s health and dental coverage, we are losing ground, and children are suffering the consequences. Nearly one-third of America’s children rely on Medicaid and CHIP for comprehensive, affordable coverage, including children in foster care, children who live in or near poverty, and children with disabilities or special health care needs. These are the children who need coverage the most. For these kids, no coverage often means no care.
“The number of children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP fell by over 840,000 nationwide. Enrollment losses of this magnitude are especially concerning at a time when the United States is facing numerous public health crises, such as the largest measles outbreak in decades, an opioid epidemic, and staggering rates of adolescent suicide.
“Children’s coverage is susceptible to changes in federal and state policies and operations, and efforts to undermine Medicaid and CHIP have created uncertainty and unnecessary barriers to accessing coverage. This leaves children worse off and less likely to be enrolled, jeopardizing their long-term health. In 2017, the number of uninsured children increased for the first time in almost a decade, with 276,000 more U.S. children becoming uninsured. While 2018 insurance rates are not available yet, the dramatic decline in Medicaid and CHIP enrollment in 2018 cannot be ignored.
“We must act quickly to keep Medicaid and CHIP strong and connect children with the health and dental coverage they need to succeed. States have made historic gains in covering children, but with coverage rates stalling or moving backwards in most states, we must double down on efforts to reach and enroll eligible children, focus on system improvements to keep them covered, and ensure that parents have health insurance so that they can keep themselves and their families healthy.”