For nearly a decade,
The state is now losing ground.
As of May, nearly 37,000 fewer children were enrolled in
Census data, reported in the
No one knows for sure why.
Child advocacy organizations are sounding alarms about the increases in children without health insurance in
"I just don't buy it,"
The state numbers mirror national trends. Enrollment for children in Medicaid and the
Organizations across the state like the
"Certain kids are falling through the cracks and not getting medical care that they are entitled to get," Considine said.
"There's no question we need to do more," Corcoran said.
It's been happening more and more.
"People come to me and they say, 'I went to pick up my prescriptions and I didn't have Medicaid and I don't know why,' " said
From 2017 to 2019, AxessPointe, which has clinics in
While the Medicaid enrollment process is complicated and lengthy, taking months to process, the re-enrollment process can also be a hindrance, Jensen said.
Some people receive the renewal paperwork in the mail but don't understand it. Others don't receive the paperwork because they moved one or more times in the last year.
If they don't know within 60 days that they lost their insurance, they have to start from the beginning with a new application.
"If they call in, we don't even need a paper application anymore," Dodson said. Her office also has case managers in places like hospitals, senior centers and even the
But statewide, federal funding for people who can help the public enroll in health insurance has nearly evaporated in the last three years.
The Affordable Care Act created jobs for "navigators," federally funded workers who helped people enroll in a marketplace plan or Medicaid. In 2016,
"There's just a lot less people out there assisting Ohioans eligible for Medicaid [to] enroll," said
And when parents lose insurance, he said, more often than not, so do their children.
When a person is no longer enrolled in Medicaid and his or her case is closed, the case is coded with a reason that individual is no longer covered by the public health insurance program.
Just 12 percent of cases for people 20 or younger in 2018 were closed because of an "income-related issue," indicating the individual or family now made too much money to qualify for Medicaid. About half of closed cases were due to failure to comply, likely meaning proper paperwork was not filed.
But the state has not reached out to those people to make sure they are leaving Medicaid intentionally, Gmeiner said.
"They're the only ones who can really know this," she said. "In our report, we encourage them to do aggressive outreach where children were losing Medicaid to determine if they got other coverage or not."
Corcoran, the Medicaid director, said she's working to bring the program's systems into the "modern era." While people can fill out their Medicaid paperwork online, the state can't send people their information in an email. She acknowledged the snail mail system isn't a reliable way to reach people who move frequently.
Most reminder phone calls from the state are automated, but Corcoran said she wants to change that. An executive order signed by Gov.
"We do have an active effort going on right now to focus on this from both a system point of view and from a human point of view," Corcoran said.
For the advocates who have pushed for increased coverage for years, the declines are "disheartening," said
"Kids do better when their health needs are met," she said. "Families have greater stability when they are not choosing between paying their utilities and doctors appointments."
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