Are your kids insured? Parents in Tennessee might want to double-check.
Over the last two years, at least 128,000 kids have been removed from Medicaid coverage through TennCare or CoverKids, many without their parents’ knowledge.
“What we are seeing now is massive numbers of people being dropped off the rolls with no notification, and they don’t find out until they have a reason to use their insurance,” said one healthcare professional. “They are forced to determine what the health of their child is worth to them and if they can delay whatever attention they need until they get — if they can get — their insurance back.”
One in every eight children in TennCare was disenrolled. If this was the result of an improving economy, officials argue, those kids would transition to CoverKids — they haven’t. In fact, 39% of CoverKids recipients have been disenrolled.
Tens of thousands of those kids remain uninsured.
TennCare attributes the disenrollment of many of those kids to missing paperwork, but advocates blame systemic procedural errors within the insurance provider.
“There were humans processing these renewals. And humans do make mistakes,” admitted TennCare director of member services Kim Hagan. “But is it systemic? Absolutely not.”
The number of uninsured children has skyrocketed in the state, from an estimated 58,000 in 2016 to 71,000 in 2017. And with Tennessee being one of the least healthy states in America, the dramatic rise in uninsured children is dangerous.
“I think that’s just the tip of the iceberg,” said Michele Johnson, executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center. “This is the first time in 10 years that the number of uninsured children are going the wrong direction, and that just from the start of disenrollment.”
Insured children are healthier than uninsured children across the board, not just from immediate health concerns. Insured children have a lower rate of obesity and fewer hospitalizations from preventable causes later in life. And as children age into adults, healthcare costs will disproportionately burden them.
TennCare data for February originally showed 52,000 more children losing coverage, but took those statistics down after being questioned by the Tennessean claiming them to be inaccurate.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.