CA Pandemic Protections Held Line on Children’s Health Insurance

Suzanne Potter | California News Service
In April, the continuous-coverage provision of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act will expire, and states will start redetermining eligibility for more than 80 million people enrolled in Medicaid. Photo Credit: PintoArt / Adobe Stock

During 2021, the first year after the pandemic began, California managed to keep more than 96% of children insured, according to a new report from Georgetown University.

The authors credit a federal law which gave states extra money so no one would be dropped from Medicaid during COVID.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said the protections are slated to lapse when the national health emergency ends next spring, and she predicted the national child uninsured rate could double.

“Three out of every four children that may lose Medicaid coverage will still be eligible,” Alker pointed out. “Sometimes children lose coverage at Medicaid renewal, just because the letter gets lost in the mail. Families with limited English proficiency may have more trouble getting through the renewal process successfully.”

Next spring, Medi-Cal will likely resume its annual re-evaluations of recipients’ eligibility. Alker argued all states need to launch a massive outreach campaign to make sure no eligible child is dropped. And parents need to make sure Medi-Cal has their correct address.

Mayra Alvarez, president of the Children’s Partnership, noted California’s most recent budget included money to keep all children on Medi-Cal continuously covered until age five, but there’s a catch.

“The state is not slated to implement that provision until 2025,” Alvarez stressed. “We’re urging the state to move as quickly as possible with those protections so that our children don’t drop off of the rolls.”

Nationally, the child uninsured rate in the U.S. was 5.4% in 2021, down slightly from 2019, reversing a trend from the Trump years, when the rate of uninsured children went up.

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