2% fewer Ky. children were on Medicaid a year after pandemic re-enrollment began; total enrollment, including adults, dropped 9.5%

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Medicaid enrollment of Kentucky’s children fell 1.6 percent since the continuous-coverage protections of the pandemic were lifted last year. That was one of the smallest declines in the nation.

Coverage of U.S. children fell 10% in the “unwinding” process, says the report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, based on data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Kentucky hasn’t started the re-enrollment process for children yet because, unlike most states, it worked with the federal government to delay the restart of renewals for children until this September. So did North Carolina.

“The story of Georgetown’s report is an incredible good news story that speaks to how well Kentucky did things for kids,” said Priscilla Easterling, outreach coordinator for Kentucky Voices for Health, a coalition of health-care advocacy groups.

Nationwide, 4.16 million children were dropped from from Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and most would likely still be eligible, says the report. The numbers do not reflect individual children, but the change in total enrollment, which fluctuates from month to month for various reasons.

In Kentucky, 10,477 fewer children were covered than the 648,865 who were enrolled in either Medicaid or KCHIP before the unwinding — the gradual resumption of annual Medicaid coverage renewals. Renewals in Kentucky began in April 2023.

Overall, Kentucky’s Medicaid rolls have declined 9.5 percent in the last year. The number enrolled in April was 1,561,400. County-by-county figures are available from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

Cabinet spokesperson Brice Mitchell told Kentucky Health News in an email that Kentucky was the first state to request and get approval to automatically grant children 12 months of continuous coverage, without needing to go through a renewal during the unwinding.

“The state sought this flexibility to ensure our children kept access to the coverage they need and deserve,” Mitchell said.

The only way a child may be disenrolled during the 12-month continuous coverage period is if the child turns 19, a parent or guardian requests disenrollment, or if the child moves out of state, Mitchell said.

Easterling said it is expected that the children’s renewal period that begins in September will go smoothly since the state will have already processed the adult renewals.

She also noted that it would be great if the state took advantage of an existing program that would allow continuous coverage for children up to age 3 as some other states have done.

“We know that kids losing coverage and being uninsured negatively impacts their health and their family’s finances, with the risk of big medical bills . . . that a family can’t afford to pay,” Easterling said.

Kentucky Health News is an independent news service of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, based in the School of Journalism and Media at the University of Kentucky, with support from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky.

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