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Have a Heart for Kids Day 2020

Kids’ health coverage at risk when Public Health Emergency ends

charlotte.linton 01/17/23

Access to health insurance coverage significantly contributes to child health and well-being. Medicaid (also known as Apple Health in Washington) is a critical health insurance program that allows low-income families and children to have access to high-quality and affordable medical, dental and behavioral health care. In Washington, nearly 3 in 8 children are covered by Apple Health for Kids, the state’s child Medicaid program. 

In Jan. 2020 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US Department of Health & Human Services declared a federal Public Health Emergency (PHE). Shortly after, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which barred children insured by Medicaid from being disenrolled during the COVID-19 PHE. During this time, states have not been able to disenroll people from Medicaid, which has allowed low-income families and children to maintain coverage during a critical time. According to a recent report, this allowed thousands of Washington families to keep their kids covered between 2019 and 2021. 

However, when the public health emergency ends, families using Medicaid will have to prove their eligibility, and thousands of people in Washington, including children on Apple Health for Kids, could lose coverage if they are no longer eligible - or face administrative barriers during the process.  

The PHE was most recently extended to remain in effect until Apr. 11, 2023. It is possible the PHE could be further extended. 

When babies and children get the health care they need, they are more likely to be successful in school and grow up into healthy adults. That’s why pediatricians are talking about how it’s important for Washington families who rely on Apple Health to prepare for this continuous coverage policy to end when the PHE is terminated. 

Once the PHE ends, the Washington State Health Care Authority will spend the next 12 months redetermining clients’ eligibility for Apple Health. Parents and families currently insured by Apple Health should ensure their contact information and addresses are up-to-date so they receive critical information and updates from the state about renewing health coverage for their kids.