Report Cites Big Drop in Number of Medicaid- or CHIP-Enrolled TN Children

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The number of children who are not enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, is on the rise. A new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families estimates more than 88,000 children in Tennessee are no longer enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP, and likely have lost health insurance.

The report said that’s a 10% drop, the highest decline in the country and more than double the national average. Bruce Lesley, president of the advocacy organization First Focus on Children, said the dwindling number of enrolled children is an alarming trend.

“And we’re really concerned about the effects that this has, particularly in light of the bigger picture,” Lesley said. “We know that suicide rates for children are also up, and we see increases in school shootings, child abuse and neglect rates. We’re also failing kids with respect to child health coverage.”

The report found around 800,000 fewer children nationwide were enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP at the end of 2018. Researchers say the drop in the child enrollment rate was driven by staggering declines in the number of children enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP in just a handful of states, including Tennessee, California, Florida, Texas, Illinois, Missouri and Ohio.

Tricia Brooks, lead author of the report, said while an improved economy in 2018 may have led some families to obtain coverage through employer-sponsored health plans, there is little evidence that access to this type of coverage improved for low-wage workers.

She said the federal government should take steps to prevent more children from falling through the cracks.

“The federal government and states should also put the welcome mat out again by investing in outreach and consumer assistance to help families learn about and enroll their eligible children,” Brooks said. “States should also cut red tape by adopting policy options like 12-month continuous eligibility.”

Brooks said President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on immigration and proposed changes to immigration policy may be deterring parents from enrolling their children in government programs. She said a recent national survey found 1-in-6 immigrant families with children younger than 19 did not participate in Medicaid or CHIP last year out of fear of risking future green-card status.

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