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Alex Gonzalez, Producer
Monday, August 21, 2023
Parents’ back-to-school checklist in Arizona might include double-checking to make sure their children still have health insurance.
Arizona was one of the first states to start re-checking the eligibility status of everyone receiving Medicaid coverage when the pandemic public health emergency ended.
Director of Health Policy at Children’s Action Alliance Matt Jewett said since April, Medicaid enrollment in Arizona has already decreased by several hundred thousand – which he calls “concerning.”
Jewett said kids are among those being dropped from coverage – many for reasons as simple as filing errors, or families not updating their contact information – and getting new insurance may be challenging.
“A lot of the population that we are seeing is those children who are either aging out of KidsCare,” said Jewett. “We’re also seeing folks in rural areas who may not have as many organizations providing help. We’re also seeing that in tribal areas, there are a lot of people at risk.”
Jewett added that the state’s Medicaid program for children, called KidsCare, will increase the income eligibility from 200% of the Federal Poverty Level to 225% this fall.
That should mean an additional 12,000 kids could be enrolled for coverage.
Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said it is worrisome that many of the Medicaid losses aren’t because a state determines someone isn’t eligible – but because many haven’t gone through the renewal process.
She said if your child has lost Medicaid coverage, there’s a good chance they’re still eligible.
“We’re in this unprecedented historic situation where states that are generally understaffed, have to process eligibility checks for everybody on the program,” said Alker. “And that includes half the children in the country, so this is a massive undertaking.”
Alker said coverage gaps are a problem, no matter how long they last.
She adds even though children aren’t expensive to cover, they’re what she calls “regular utilizers of care,” and she doesn’t want families showing up at a pharmacy or doctor’s office and being turned away.
Disclosure: Georgetown University Center for Children & Families contributes to our fund for reporting on Children’s Issues, Health Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.