PROMO Health - Family Silhouette Stethoscope - iStock - designer491

Experts warn more than 200,000 Colorado kids could lose health coverage

© iStock - designer491
Eric Galatas

(Colorado News Connection) Colorado saw the number of children without health insurance drop significantly between 2019 and 2021, according to a new report from Georgetown University

This reverses a trend from the previous two years. 

But Erin Miller - vice president for health initiatives for the Colorado Children's Campaign - points to state data showing that more than 200,000 children are at risk of losing coverage, when the COVID public health emergency expires. 

She said families losing coverage could face major financial risks, including medical debt and bankruptcy.

"Folks are worried that they are not going to be able to afford their kid's glasses if they don't have Medicaid or CHIP coverage," said Miller. "Or they're worried about going to the pharmacy one day to refill their kid's asthma medication and finding out they don't have insurance any more."

Loss of coverage is largely due to the return of administrative burdens that were lifted at the onset of the pandemic. 

As soon as next April, families eligible for insurance through the State Children's Health Insurance Plan, or CHIP, and Medicaid will no longer keep their coverage. 

They will have to go through a complicated and lengthy application process.

The Georgetown report warns that nationally, 6.7 million children could lose coverage when the pandemic is declared over. 

Report lead author Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown's Center for Children and Families, said three out of every four children who may lose insurance through Medicaid will still be eligible for coverage.

"Sometimes children lose coverage in normal times at Medicaid renewal, just because the letter gets lost in the mail," said Alker. "Families with limited English proficiency may have more trouble getting through the renewal process successfully."

When families have insurance, Miller said maternal and child mortality rates go down - and kids are more likely to graduate from high school and college, and have higher income as adults. 

She said the continuous coverage protections established during the pandemic, which kept families enrolled without all the red tape, shows it's possible to ensure kids get the health care they need.

"Government policy makes a huge difference in the lives of people and in families," said Miller. "One silver lining of the pandemic is that if you say that folks need to stay enrolled in their coverage at the state level, they do."