TN kids’ uninsured rate could rise as health emergency ends

Published 3:53 pm Thursday, March 2, 2023

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A pandemic-era law to help keep children and families continuously covered with health insurance is set to expire this spring, and advocates are worried about kids losing coverage, even when they are still eligible.
A report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families showed Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program stabilized the uninsured rate for Tennessee kids, but it could change.
Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, said nearly 60% of children in the state are covered by TennCare. States will begin rechecking people’s eligibility starting in April.
Johnson encouraged families to respond within the limited time of 40 days to show they are still eligible.
“Last time that there was a redetermination, about 200,000 children lost coverage,” Johnson recounted. “According to Public Records Act requests, 91% of the children who lost coverage were terminated, not because they were ineligible, but because the state’s records showed that they hadn’t responded, which we know is inaccurate.”
The Georgetown report said nationwide, about 6.7-million children are likely to lose their health insurance when the pandemic’s “continuous coverage” protection ends this spring, if states do not take the time and care to ensure those who qualify are not dropped.
Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and the report’s co-author, said federal research indicates 72% of the kids who might lose their Medicaid coverage would still be eligible, noting Black and Latino families are at greater risk of losing theirs.
“Language issues may be a barrier when you have families who are perhaps mixed-status immigrant families, who have some fear about engaging with the government,” Alker pointed out. “Families who live in rural areas, who don’t have good internet connectivity. There are lots of reasons families are going to be at greater risk.”
TennCare said it will increase public outreach as the renewal process begins April 1. It urged TennCare recipients to update their contact information and create “TennCare Connect” accounts online.

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