With the imminent end of the public health emergency caused by the pandemic, a new report reveals that millions of children in Arizona and elsewhere are at risk of losing their insurance coverage.
About half of Arizona’s children are covered by Medicaid or CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program. They were able to maintain their coverage stability thanks to the Families First Coronavirus Response Act continuous coverage requirement.
But Zaida Dedolph, director of public policy for the Children’s Action Alliance, said many children in Arizona could be taken off the rolls for something as simple as a missing change of address.
“There was a moratorium on deportation of people on the Medicaid and CHIP lists,” Dedolph said. “But once the public health emergency is over – which could be in April, it could be extended again – once that happens, families will no longer have that protection.”
The report was released by the Georgetown Center for Children & Families. Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 100,000 additional children in Arizona have enrolled in Medicaid coverage.
Dedolph said it’s important for state officials to have a game plan for letting families know they might need to re-enroll their children for health coverage.
“We want families to know,” Dedolph said, “that if you’ve changed your address in the past two years, if you’ve experienced a difference in your family, so you’ve had a new child or something like that over the past two years, you have to keep the ACCHS up to date and prepare for these bonuses.”
Experts say there are policies states can implement now that would help minimize coverage disruptions. Tricia Brooks, a research professor at the Georgetown McCourt School of Public Policy, said states should be prepared to slow down the process to ensure efforts to prevent automatic opt-out.
“States should start,” Brooks said, “by maximizing the use of existing data sources to confirm the continued eligibility of as many people as possible now to reduce the backlog of pending actions.”
Federal officials have not determined when the COVID-19 public health emergency will end, but advocates warn it could be as early as April 15.
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