Millions of children in the U.S. have had stability in Medicaid coverage, thanks to a continuous coverage policy during the pandemic. But that policy is set to expire soon.
Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program have been a lifeline for struggling families during the pandemic - and a new report suggests more than six million children in the U.S. could needlessly lose that coverage.
A "continuous-enrollment" requirement will be lifted at the end of the public-health emergency, which could be as early as April.
The federal government then gives states 12 months to re-determine people's eligibility. But Ohio's new state budget calls for that work to be completed in 90 days.
Kelly Vyzral, senior health policy associate with the Children's Defense Fund-Ohio, said the shorter timeframe could lead to families being erroneously dropped from coverage.
"There are workforce shortages that are affecting Ohio Medicaid just like they're affecting every other business in Ohio, and they've got an enormous caseload to go through," Vyzral. "And we want to make sure that every family and every child that is eligible for Medicaid is able to maintain that coverage."
The findings from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families indicate a nearly 12% increase in Ohio children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP between February of 2020 and June 2021. That's roughly 134,000 kids at risk of losing coverage.
More than half of all children in the U.S. are enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP. Executive Director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families Joan Alker says 37.3 million kids are currently protected by continuous coverage.
"This mass and unprecedented eligibility redetermination process holds great risk for children and their families," said Alker. "And that risk will vary depending on where they live."
Positive measures Ohio has made to cover families are noted in the report, including expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act and merging the Medicaid and CHIP programs.
Vyzral said they've also eliminated other red tape.
"They offer 12-month continuous coverage for families and children," Vyzral. "They have been improving their level of passive renewal, so that families don't have to continue to submit information if Medicaid can verify that through existing data and records they have."
She said she's hopeful Ohio will take advantage of the 12-month allowable time frame for redeterminations.