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Thousands of Idaho Kids' Health Coverage in Jeopardy as COVID Health Emergency Ends

By Eric Tegethoff Mar 18, 2022

BOISE - A change to Medicaid enrollment in the coming months could put health coverage for millions of children across the U.S., and thousands in Idaho, at risk.

When the federal government officially ends the COVID-19 public health emergency, it will also end the requirement for states to provide continuous Medicaid coverage.

Hillarie Hagen, health policy associate at Idaho Voices for Children, talked about what it will mean in the Gem State.

"Families will need to complete renewal paperwork for their children to remain on Medicaid," Hagen explained. "And if the state's renewal process is unable to handle the influx of renewals, or if parents can't be reached to complete paperwork within a short timeline, tens of thousands of Idaho kids are at risk of losing their health coverage."

More Idaho children got health coverage through Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program during the pandemic. According to a Georgetown University report, an additional 24,000 kids in the state gained coverage through the programs between February 2020 and June 2021. It said most received coverage through Medicaid.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and Research, predicted the loss of extra federal funds to secure continuous Medicaid coverage will create enormous pressure on states and there will likely be a record number of procedural denials.

"For all of these reasons, we estimate today that 6.7 million children are at extremely high risk of becoming uninsured during this process," Alker reported. "As big as this number is, we actually believe this is a conservative estimate."

Hagen noted there are a few ways Idaho can prepare for the change, which is expected to happen in July.

"Idaho officials can extend timelines for Medicaid renewals and allow families more time to respond to alerts and submit needed paperwork," Hagen suggested. "The state can also invest in robust outreach and strong consumer support in preparation."

Hagen added the state also could routinely track and release renewal data so it can intervene quickly if children begin to lose coverage at high rates.

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