August 2, 2022
The Mountain State
The federal health-insurance program for children helps keep more than 200,000 West Virginia children insured. Advocates said the Children's Health Insurance Program, which marks its 25th anniversary this week, is a lifeline for families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but do not have access to employer-sponsored coverage. Kelli Caseman, executive director of Think Kids West Virginia, explained an emergency provision enacted during the pandemic meant kids relying on the program had quality health care, no matter what changes in employment their parents underwent. "And I don't just mean government insurance, I mean all health care," Caseman explained. "It really covers preventive care. It covers enrolled child exams, it covers follow up, is there a need for specialty care, and it really meets parents and caregivers where they are." Caseman pointed out the public health emergency declaration is set to expire in October. The federal government has said it will give states at least sixty days' notice of a final deadline, so agencies can begin reaching out to families to ensure kids do not fall through the coverage gap. She added the program covers more than half the nation's Black and Hispanic children, and emphasized increasing awareness about upcoming changes and re-enrollment in these populations will be critical. "Get the word out to families where they are; so information in schools, information in after-school programs," Caseman urged. "So families know, hey, you have to re-enroll. Here's how you can do that." Caseman acknowledged even before the pandemic, the Mountain State faced challenges re-enrolling children. According to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, the state has consistently ranked in the top 10 among states for the number of residents living in poverty. Caseman observed many kids are transient. "They may live with a parent who may become incarcerated or may take a job in another county," Caseman stressed. "As they move, finding them and keeping them enrolled can be very difficult." Research shows children enrolled in the program see their doctor and dentist regularly, and are less likely to visit emergency rooms.