Children's Health Coverage Is At Risk

The federal COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) program that has kept millions insured during the pandemic is about to expire on July 15, 2022.

“Nearly 40 million children nationwide currently enrolled in Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are at risk of losing health coverage,” said Sandy Close, Director of Ethnic Media Services at a May 20 news briefing.

Mayra Alvarez, President of Children’s Partnership, said that the PHE has protected and supported communities since 2020 through telehealth, Covid testing, and flexibility in public programs.

“During this time people stayed enrolled through Medicaid without administrative renewals and without having to prove eligibility. Families may face these administrative hurdles again after July 15 and may lose health insurance.”

Children of Color are most at risk

“This will disproportionately impact children of color. Medi-Cal is the main source of coverage for Latinx and Native Americans who will miss out on preventive and primary care services necessary for young children.”

Children need to be up-to-date on vaccinations, and well-child visits during the first year of life when 90% of the brain develops. In California anyone enrolled in Medi-Cal program was covered irrespective of documentation. Alvarez said Governor Newsom has prioritized children and is hopeful for continued coverage. She added that there are folks who oppose the bill because of cost and who believe that ‘poverty is a personal responsibility.’ They are asking for eligibility requirements.

Half the Children in the country are on Medicaid

Joan Alker, Executive Director of Center for Children and Families, said the rising food and gas prices are straining families now.

“As half the children in the country are on Medicaid, parents don’t have to worry about large medical bills which normally leads to debt and is the main cause of bankruptcy. Two months ago, we released a report that said 80 million people including 37 million children will have to have their health insurance checked when the PHE expires.”

During the PHE, states received an additional 6.2% in federal Medicaid dollars and 4.3% in federal CHIP dollars. During this time, states were unable to roll back eligibility or raise premiums and people have to be continuously covered through July 15 .

“If a person lost their job in the beginning of the pandemic and has now regained a job and is over the income eligibility for Medicaid they do not lose coverage as nobody can be in involuntarily disenrolled.”

May 20 EMS Speaker Panel. Top Left: Joan Alker, Exec. Dir. & Co-Founder, Center for Children & Families, Top Right: Yingjia Huang, CA Dept. of Healhcare Services, Bottom Left: Christina Moreno, CA Dept. of Healhcare Services, Bottom Right: Mayra Alvarez, President, The Children’s Partnership, Center: Georgina Maldonado, Orange County Women’s Health Project.

Will PHE get extended?

Alker added that Health and Human Services Secretary Becerra will probably extend the PHE for 90 days until October 15 and it may be extended again. But November 1 could be when people lose coverage and eligible for marketplace coverage. 

Georgina Maldonado, Executive Director of Community Health Initiative of Orange County, said that the mission her organization is to help people navigate, understand services, and identify transportation to healthcare providers.

She said they have helped individuals manage large health care bills, and assists those with literacy problems whose income is cash-based and unable to provide paystubs to prove eligibility.

What will happen if PHE terminates?

Yingjia Huang, Assistant Deputy Director at California Department of Health Care Services, said once the PHE terminates, people will have to renew healthcare on an annual basis.

“Our top goal of the department is to minimize any gap in coverage. Currently Californian covers 14.7 million individuals of which 5.5 million are children. We have started a communications strategy where we help people to update contact information, like phone numbers and addresses with county offices. This is necessary as counties will be sending out packets for beneficiaries to fill and provide updated income.”

She added that one can contact counties through phone and online portals to update addresses and any name changes and added that outreach materials are available in all 19 languages.

Huang stressed, ‘If you don’t renew by the timeline you will be lose coverage.”

DHCS has launched its own beneficiary-facing page (“Keep Your Medi-Cal”). It includes helpful information for Medi-Cal beneficiaries, including county contact information and links to Covered California, BenefitsCal, and MyBenefitsCalWIN. Beneficiaries can ensure their account has current contact information.

Image by Manuel Darío Fuentes Hernández from Pixabay

Ramaa Reddy

Ramaa Reddy is a writer, photographer, food and travel specialist who blogs at venturetraveller.com