Colorado saw a significant drop in the number of children without health insurance between 2019 and 2021, according to a new report from Georgetown University.
This reverses a trend of the last two years.
But Erin Miller — vice president for health initiatives for the Colorado Children’s Campaign — points to state data showing more than 200,000 children are at risk of losing coverage when the COVID public health emergency expires.
She said families who lose coverage could face major financial risks, including medical debt and bankruptcy.
“People are concerned that if they don’t have Medicaid or CHIP insurance, they won’t be able to afford their kid’s glasses,” Miller said. “Or they worry that one day they will go to the pharmacy to refill their child’s asthma medication and find that they no longer have insurance.”
The loss of coverage is largely due to the return of administrative burdens that were lifted early in the pandemic.
Beginning April next year, families who are eligible for coverage through the state children’s health insurance plan (CHIP) and Medicaid will no longer retain their coverage.
You have to go through a complicated and lengthy application process.
The Georgetown report warns that 6.7 million children nationwide could lose insurance coverage if the pandemic is declared over.
The report’s lead author, Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families, said three out of four children who could lose coverage through Medicaid are still eligible for coverage.
“Sometimes in normal times children lose Medicaid renewal coverage just because the letter gets lost in the mail,” Alker said. “Family with limited English skills may have greater difficulty in successfully navigating the renewal process.”
When families are insured, Miller says, maternal and child mortality rates fall — and children are more likely to graduate from high school and college and have higher incomes as adults.
She said the continuous insurance coverage put in place during the pandemic, which kept families enrolled without all the red tape, shows it’s possible to ensure children get the health care they need.
“Government policies make a huge difference in people’s lives and in families,” Miller said. “A silver lining to the pandemic is that when you say people have to stay enrolled in their state-level cover, they do it.”