(The Center Square) — Georgia is among the nine states with the most children who have lost Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage since full eligibility renewals resumed in the spring.
In a Monday letter to Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra said Medicaid and CHIP enrollment in The Peach State has declined by 9% — or 149,080 children — compared to March 2023.
“Because all children deserve to have access to comprehensive health coverage, I urge you to ensure that no child in your state who still meets eligibility criteria for Medicaid or CHIP loses their health coverage due to ‘red tape’ or other avoidable reasons as all states ‘unwind’ from the Medicaid continuous enrollment provision that was in place during much of the COVID-19 public health emergency,” Becerra wrote. “This is especially important for communities of color and underserved communities across the country.”
However, Georgia officials disputed the fed’s narrative.
They said Georgia is in the top 25% of states using “innovative waivers” and has emphasized reaching children through back-to-school events and communication with principals and educators. State officials said they are working to inform as many potentially impacted children and families as possible, including advertising, community events, direct outreach, social media outreach and resources in seven languages.
“We are following the process initiated and mandated by the Biden-Harris administration, which has once again missed an opportunity to urge families to fill out their paperwork,” Garrison Douglas, a Kemp spokesperson, told The Center Square via email. “Georgia has taken considerable action to streamline processes; utilize innovations, Georgia-centric solutions, and waivers to benefit Medicaid recipients; and just today announced the use of $54 million to further that work as we partner with community-level stakeholders and medical service providers.
“Rather than diminish the important work being done by dedicated and tireless caseworkers and pit states against one another, we hope Secretary Barrera joins us in our efforts to encourage families who are going through this federally initiated process to complete the paperwork required by the same federal process to remain covered,” Douglas added.
The Georgia Budget and Policy Institute’s health justice director said the data showing children account for 46% of all Medicaid unwinding coverage losses between March and September “demands urgent attention.”
“Ensuring access to comprehensive health coverage is not just a policy goal; it is a fundamental commitment to the well-being of our children and the financial security of hardworking families,” Leah Chan said in a statement. “No child should lose their health coverage due to bureaucratic hurdles or avoidable reasons, especially as we transition from the continuous enrollment provision established during the COVID-19 public health emergency.
“Our state has taken meaningful actions – including adopting seven of the sixteen ‘waivers’ offered by the federal government to streamline renewals and recently investing $54 million in one-time federal dollars to support eligibility caseworkers and call center staff,” Chan added. “However, these new data show that those actions do not go far enough.”
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor