PA sees drop in health insurance coverage for children as national rates rise

Danielle Smith – Keystone State News Service

new analysis of 2022 census data has uncovered a troubling trend: The uninsured rate for Pennsylvania children worsened during the final full year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 2023 State of Children’s Health in Pennsylvania report found more than 145,000 children are without health insurance.

Becky Ludwick, vice president of public policy at Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, emphasized despite the Medicaid continuous coverage and other flexibilities in place during the public health emergency, Pennsylvania is among a few states observing a decline in the rate of children having access to health insurance.

“We did see the uninsured rate get worse for children; it went up to 5.2%,” Ludwick reported. “And that’s a pretty significant increase from the previous year, which was 4.4%. And we were surprised because we expected at least stable or improvements to the coverage, like many other states have seen during this latest census round.”

Ludwick pointed out children are facing greater barriers to accessing health insurance compared with adults. The exact reasons for the disparity are unclear, but data suggests some children may not be properly enrolled in Medicaid, despite being eligible.

Ludwick anticipated next year’s data may show an even more concerning decline in coverage, so they are urging the Department of Human Services to take a couple of actions they think could help better connect kids to coverage.

“First is to immediately restore coverage for children who lost coverage during the unwinding of the Medicaid continuous coverage provision, due to an error in how the state was determining eligibility,” Ludwick recommended.

Ludwick added they also recommend the Department of Human Services provide children from birth through kindergarten with continuous health insurance coverage for multiple years. She further urged policy changes to ensure seamless access to health insurance between Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program.