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KANW is a member of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serves the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming. Our mission is to tell stories about the people, places and issues across the Mountain West.From land and water management to growth in the expanding West to our unique culture and heritage, we'll explore the issues that define us and the challenges we face.

Mountain West children are losing Medicaid coverage as pandemic requirements expire

Equipment on a wall in a doctor's office.
Tim Evanson
Flickr Creative Commons
The increasing loss of Children's Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program coverage comes at a time when the child poverty rate is growing, according to KFF, a health policy research nonprofit.

A new analysis shows a growing number of children are losing federal health insurance across the U.S., including in the Mountain West.

During the pandemic, states were required to keep people enrolled in Medicaid in exchange for federal funding. Last spring, however, the national COVID-19 public health emergency expired and so did the provision requiring continuous enrollment. Since then, many families have failed to verify that they still qualify.

In fact, between March and September 2023, Children’s Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollment declined by nearly 6% nationwide, or 2.3 million children, according to a report from KFF, a health policy research nonprofit.

In Idaho, enrollment dropped by 27%, tying South Dakota for the sharpest decline in the country. Declines were also greater than the national average in Utah (16%), New Mexico (12%), Wyoming (9%), and Colorado (8%). Nevada (2%) was the only state in the Mountain West with an enrollment decrease that was less than the national rate of 6%.

Some declines are likely due to children moving to other coverage, said Liz Williams, a senior policy analyst at KFF. However, she noted, 75% of all Medicaid disenrollments happen because of paperwork or procedural issues.

“There is concern, with substantial disenrollments, there's likely some folks that are falling through the cracks and remain eligible for Medicaid, but are losing coverage and access to care,” Williams said.

She said the federal government recently took action to help families cover expenses and maintain coverage in the future. There are reports of Congress reaching a tentative bipartisan agreement to expand the Child Tax Credit. Moreover, as of January 2024, all states must provide 12-month continuous eligibility for children in Medicaid and CHIP.

The increasing loss of Medicaid coverage for families comes at a time when the child poverty rate is growing, according to KFF. It points out that the percentage of children ages 0-18 living in poverty was about 16% in 2022. Notably, Medicaid covers 8 in 10 children living in poverty and over half of Black, Hispanic, Native American, and Alaska Native children.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Nevada Public Radio, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, KUNC in Colorado and KANW in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Kaleb is an award-winning journalist and KUNR’s Mountain West News Bureau reporter. His reporting covers issues related to the environment, wildlife and water in Nevada and the region.