After years of steady improvement, the number of Ohio’s children who are covered by health insurance is suddenly slipping.
From February, 2018, to May of this year, the number of Ohio children enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program fell by 3 percent. That’s almost 37,000 fewer children with coverage.
And it’s not just Medicaid coverage. The Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual Kids Count report shows that in 2016 and 2017, roughly 30,000 children lost insurance of any kind.
The news is distressing, particularly when considering how hard states like Ohio worked to bolster programs such as Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program. It means that thousands of children in this state without insurance do not have access to adequate health care.
It may be that children are losing coverage when their parents lose their health insurance. It may be that renewing Medicaid coverage was too confusing or complicated for some families to manage, particularly as the number of federally funded health-care navigators has fallen in recent years.
Advocacy groups that work with children’s health issues are at a loss to explain the sudden drop in coverage rates, and they want government officials to help solve the mystery.
This problem is squarely in the wheelhouse of Gov. Mike DeWine, who is known for being particularly focused on problems affecting children and who favors solving problems by tapping the state’s best experts to study and recommend solutions.
Just such a panel is necessary here, and urgently. Ohio cannot afford to wait until a generation of its most vulnerable residents goes without health-insurance coverage and care.
Though the reason fewer Ohio children have adequate health-insurance coverage is a mystery, the consequences of this are not. Children need insurance for adequate health care. And they need proper health care to grow up healthy, to do well in school, and to enjoy happy and productive adulthoods.
Slipping backward on this vital metric of taking care of the state’s children is not something Ohio can afford to do.