Eligible WV Kids Could Slip Through Cracks When Coverage Protection Ends

Nadia Ramlagan

A pandemic-era law that helped keep children and families continuously covered is set to expire this spring, and advocates are worried the state’s youngest residents may fall through the cracks despite still being eligible for the program.

More than 60% of kids in West Virginia rely on Medicaid or CHIP.

Dr. Lisa Costello, pediatrician and immediate past president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said she knows firsthand the importance of Medicaid for patients, especially given the past few years of the pandemic, last fall’s surge in pediatric respiratory illnesses, and the ongoing youth mental-health emergency.

“I have personally cared for families who were unable to get their insulin prescription filled due to lapse in coverage, or no coverage at all,” Costello recounted. “Which led to high blood sugars and the need for their child to be hospitalized.”

Nationwide, an estimated three in four children are likely to lose coverage when the pandemic’s emergency coverage protection ends this spring, even though they will still be eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, according to new research from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, said federal research indicates 72% of the children who lose their Medicaid coverage will still be eligible, but added 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; families who live in rural areas, who don’t have good internet connectivity,” Alker outlined. “There are lots of reasons families are going to be at greater risk.”

Nearly 70% of Black children and 60% of Latino children nationwide receive public coverage, according to data from the National Health Interview Survey.