Report: Procedural reasons driving WV kids’ loss in health coverage

Nadia Ramlagan

More than 62,000 West Virginia kids have been dis-enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program or CHIP and most were removed for procedural reasons rather than eligibility.

The numbers mirror a nationwide trend leaving more than 4 million kids uninsured, according to a new report by the Georgetown Center for Children and Families.

Ellen Allen, executive director of West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, noted because the disenrollment process can take months, parents sometimes are unaware of their child’s health coverage status until they are in the emergency room or at a doctor’s appointment.

“It has a devastating impact,” Allen emphasized. “It can become even generational, because it affects a child’s healthy development. It can send families into bankruptcy trying to cover medical bills.”

Medicaid and CHIP income eligibility is set at a higher level for children than parents, so many of the children who lost coverage during the unwinding likely still meet income eligibility guidelines even if their parents no longer qualify. West Virginia is one of seven states covering pregnant people through CHIP.

Allen pointed out the complex unwinding process, bureaucratic red-tape and technological mishaps have likely driven the large numbers of disenrollments.

“Some of that is notifications maybe got sent to the wrong place, mail didn’t get opened,” Allen explained. “But I also wonder if there’s some type of systemic error and systems that are dis-enrolling people that we know qualify.”

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families and co-author of the report, said states had many choices about how to structure the unwinding process and how quickly they took action to remove children from Medicaid enrollment.

“States that saw a really large number of children disenrolling, I place that squarely on the governor,” Alker asserted. “Because the folks doing the work needed the resources, they needed the staffing, they needed the procedures and the effort to make this a smoother process than it has been.”

Research shows children in families of color, particularly Black and Latino families, have been more likely to experience gaps in health coverage.