Coalition Raises Alarm as Fewer Children Have Medical and Dental Coverage

Dentistry Today


The number of children enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) fell by about 840,000 nationwide in 2018, according to the Children’s Dental Health Project, which has joined a coalition of children’s health and medical organizations to bring attention to these declining numbers. 

The coalition notes years of progress in improving pediatric health and dental coverage and expresses concern over the lost ground represented by these new numbers. Nearly a third of children in the United States rely on Medicaid and CHIP for comprehensive and affordable coverage, the coalition says, and a lack of coverage often means a lack of care.

Further, the coalition says, the massive decline in enrollment may have significant consequences in light of numerous public health crises such as the largest measles outbreak in decades, the opioid epidemic, and staggering rates of adolescent suicide.

Changes in federal and state policies and operations impact children’s coverage, while efforts to undermine Medicaid and CHIP have created uncertainty and unnecessary barriers to accessing coverage, the coalition also says. Children are then left worse off and less likely to be enrolled, jeopardizing their long-term health, the coalition adds.

The number of uninsured children increased for the first time in almost decade in 2017, with 276,000 more children in the United States becoming uninsured, the coalition reports. Overall insurance rates aren’t available for 2018 yet, the coalition says, but the dramatic decline in Medicaid and CHIP enrollment in 2018 can’t be ignored. 

The coalition is calling for quick action to keep Medicaid and CHIP strong and to connect children with the medical and dental coverage they need to thrive. While some states have made historic gains in coverage, rates are stalling or moving backward in most states, the coalition says.

The solution, the coalition says efforts to reach and enroll eligible children, focus on system improvements to keep them covered, and ensure that parents have health insurance so they can keep themselves and their families healthy must be improved.

In addition to the Children’s Dental Health Project, the coalition includes the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Defense Fund, the Children’s Hospital Association, Family Voices, First Focus on Children, the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, the March of Dimes, and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners.

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