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WI Kids Losing Health Coverage in Medicaid Unwinding

A blank Medicaid application waiting to be filled out.
Keith Bell/mybaitshop - stock.adobe.com
A blank Medicaid application waiting to be filled out.

As Wisconsin kids head back to school, families who rely on Medicaid are reminded to ensure their children still have health insurance.

States are redetermining people's eligibility after a COVID-19 public health emergency officially ended in May. The temporary provision automatically kept recipients enrolled, but as it expired, many children are being dropped from the rolls as their families lose coverage.

William Parke-Sutherland, senior health policy analyst for the Wisconsin-based policy group Kids Forward, said the situation has affected at least 32,000 children across the state, and argued it is bad timing with a new school year here.

"Kids that have stable access to health insurance are more likely to do better in school, they're more likely to be employed as adults, they're less likely to visit the emergency room," Parke-Sutherland explained.

He noted even if parents no longer think they are eligible because of a boost in their household income, there is a good chance their children still qualify with the income limits being different for children. Families with questions are urged to contact their regional "income maintenance" office, which can be found on the state Department of Health Services website. They also can try the MyACCESS mobile app.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said it is
worrisome many of the Medicaid losses are not because a state determines someone is no longer eligible, but because many have not gone through the renewal process.

"We're in this unprecedented historic situation where states that are generally understaffed, have to process eligibility checks for everybody on the program," Alker pointed out. "That includes half the children in the country, so this is a massive undertaking."

National estimates have shown three of four children who lose Medicaid coverage are likely still eligible. Policy experts said there are common reasons why families have a hard time keeping up with their enrollment, including renewal letters being sent to an old address after a recent move, or transportation and technology barriers, especially in rural areas.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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