It's estimated nearly 7 million children are at risk for a period of uninsurance starting next year, when pandemic-era coverage protections end, according to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.
Ohio saw a slight spike in the number of its youngest residents without health insurance during the pandemic, even as the number of uninsured kids nationwide dropped by 5%, according to a new report.
Kelly Vyzral, senior health policy associate for Children's Defense Fund Ohio, explained in 2019, the number of uninsured Ohio children swelled to rates not seen in decades. She said groups worked to improve Medicaid outreach and enrollment when the pandemic hit. She pointed out the state could do more to improve outcomes by enacting what's known as "continuous eligibility" for children through age six.
"All of those early, really critical checkups, developmental screenings, immunizations are more likely to be taken care of, because the parent does not have to worry that the child doesn't have insurance," Vyzral said.
Ohio is one of 17 states along with the District of Columbia that do not have continuous eligibility for kids covered through Medicaid or CHIP. Vyzral noted while more Ohio kids have lost coverage, more than 100,000 families had three years of uninterrupted health care as a result of the government's emergency protections that kept them insured.
Vyzral added increasing the income threshold for Medicaid, particularly for pregnant women, would give more families a healthy start.
"Because what that would do would be to help all those working families - families who may not currently qualify for Medicaid, but also can't afford insurance on the private market," Vyzral said.
Joan Alker, Executive Director of Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families and report co-author, said children in low-earning families were more likely to gain health coverage due to pandemic-era polices.
"Working families with annual incomes between around $30,000 to $55,000 saw the biggest reductions in their uninsured rate," Alker said. "And that, I think, speaks to a lot of really essential workers who faced challenges in the early period of the pandemic."
She added kids continue to face increased health threats from R-S-V, the flu and COVID, while families continue to struggle to make ends meet amid high inflation.