Millions Of Children At Risk Of Losing Their Health Coverage

The long-awaited end of the pandemic will be a relief, but it is feared it will have an unintended effect: that millions of families will lose health coverage in the United States, including more than 6.7 million children , experts say . This is due to the end of the federal declaration of a public health emergency due to the coronavirus, which has granted extra health benefits since 2020 and ensures that residents do not lose their insurance.

Children living in Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Nevada and Texas “are especially at risk”, indicates an analysis by the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, which describes a worrying post-COVID-19 scenario if states and Congress do not act .

A few weeks ago, the emergency was renewed once again until October and many breathed a sigh of relief. But this is temporary: It is set to expire, and state agencies and residents need to prepare — especially Latino and communities of color, who may be hit the hardest. Partly because they do not know what is happening or do not take action.

“Many families that include immigrants are afraid to interact with the government because they are concerned that it could have a negative impact on immigration issues,” Shelby Gonzales, vice president of Immigration Policy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), told Noticias Telemundo. But she points out that the information given for health services should not affect immigration procedures , nor is it considered in the public charge rule .

Why COVID-19 brought more access to health. With the pandemic emergency , the federal government provides extra funds to the states and imposes new rules to ensure health care. The policy establishes continuous coverage for those enrolled in the Medicaid low-cost health program (regardless of changes in income, age or non-payment of premiums) and eliminates copays for teleconsultations and COVID-19 tests, among other aid. The impact is wide-ranging: an estimated half of the nation’s children (about 40 million) have Medicaid or CHIP health care.

What will happen when the emergency expires. States will need to review whether more than 80 million Medicaid recipients are still eligible. It is a titanic effort, requiring personnel and time that many states do not have. First, they must verify with electronic data, but if this does not work, they will send a request for information to the member.

“This is where many people could get lost in the confusion, and lose coverage,” Farah Erzouki, senior policy analyst at CBPP, explains to Noticias Telemundo. Many families may have moved, and not receive the order, or not understand what they need to do. If they don’t reply in 30 daysThey lose insurance. Children may be eligible for other programs but miss out on this opportunity because of the complexity of the transition.

What to do to maintain the health benefits. The first step is to make sure the Government has your current contact information, such as your mailing address. Next, you should pay attention to letters or requests you receive and respond to them, explained advisers from Florida Covering Kids & Families, College of Public Health, at the University of South Florida (USF). Likewise, let Medicaid know if there are any changes in your household (such as changes in income).

You can also apply now for renewal if you meet the requirements, indicates the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. If you’re not eligible for Medicaid, you may be able to get other programs or ask for low-cost insurance on the Marketplace.

You can see what the process is like in each state on the page of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. There may also be community clinics, organizations or health departments in your area that can help you. The Covering Florida program offers help at no cost, for example, in Florida. You can also find counselors near you at Get Covered America .

How it can affect your immigration status . States generally do not require information on the immigration status or citizenship of beneficiaries during the health program renewal process, the CBPP experts indicate. In addition, Medicaid coverage and the health aid that families receive, especially those related to the pandemic (such as treatments, COVID-19 tests, and vaccines) are not negatively considered in immigration decisions or analyzed in the public charge rule. Only direct cash payments and long-term institutionalizations are considered, in a very limited number of cases.

To avoid massive loss of coverage
Beyond the small steps that families can take, experts point out that the greatest change can occur on the part of state administrations. The emergency is likely to last through at least mid-January 2023, CBPP experts say , so local agencies can plan ahead.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recommend that you focus your efforts on: improving your communication channels with beneficiaries, strengthening the renewal process, and ensuring that you can help those who are not eligible for Medicaid transition to other coverage.

Some have already started: Arkansas created a new call center and Tennessee launched a digital campaign, among other measures . California was the first to publish a plan, and others followed. “This transparency is essential,” said Farah Erzouki of the CBPP.

There are also important changes that legislators can make at the federal level, promoting, for example, the expansion of Medicaid.

A few days ago, Congress gave an example of the impact it can have: it approved a Biden package of economic and climate measures that includes changes that will help families. Drug prices will be negotiated and there will be a cap of $35 per month on the cost of insulin for Medicare beneficiaries and health care subsidies are extended to keep premiums low.

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