By Nadia Ramlagan for WVNS
Despite economic uncertainty of the pandemic, the number of West Virginia kids with health coverage remained roughly the same between 2019 and 2021, according to a new report.
The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families report finds the number of uninsured kids nationwide dropped by 5% in the last three years. In West Virginia, Julianne Yacovone – director of child health with West Virginians for Affordable Healthcare – said the number of kids statewide with no health insurance has kept steady, at around 13,000. She said the state’s 12-month continuous eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP has kept more kids and their caregivers healthy.
“We have seen,” said Yacovone, “that when parents go in for those necessary appointments, and parents are getting the care, the prescription they need, children are more likely to be covered.”
She added that children in low-earning families were more likely to gain coverage due to pandemic-era polices, noting households of three making under $55,000 a year saw the largest gains.
According to Census Survey data, West Virginia has had the second-lowest median household income among the states. Yacovone added that rates for flu and Respiratory Syncytial Virus – RSV – across the state have climbed high enough to temporarily shut down schools. She said she believes more families have been able to receive flu shots and other medical care this fall without worrying about their health insurance lapsing.
“I could only imagine,” said Yacovone, “how much higher our rates of flu and hospitalizations for flu would be if people didn’t have access to that coverage that ensured that they got those vaccinations.”
Executive Director of Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families Joan Alker explained that while West Virginia families benefit from continuous coverage, states that haven’t implemented similar protections will likely see a spike in uninsured kids in 2023.
“This continuous coverage protection is likely to expire early next year,” said Alker. “And we have estimated that the child uninsured rate is very possibly going to double when that happens, which is a very scary thought.”
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia currently do not have continuous eligibility for kids covered through Medicaid or CHIP.