New resources can help school districts inform families of a Medicaid policy shift that could lead millions of otherwise qualifying students to lose coverage in the next year.
Children’s health advocates say schools could play a key role in ensuring that low-income students and their families don’t fall off of the Medicaid rolls because of logistical issues—like missed paperwork or changes of address.
Here’s what educators need to know.
A pandemic-era Medicaid policy ends this month
A federal policy called “continuous coverage” is set to expire on March 31. Under that rule, which was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, states were required to allow Medicaid recipients to remain in the low-income health care program uninterrupted and without filling out regular paperwork.
As a result, Medicaid recipients, including many vulnerable children, have enjoyed unprecedented stability in their health coverage for the last few years.
Overall Medicaid enrollment has grown by about 28 percent since February 2020, in part thanks to the coverage requirement.
After the rule change, states will review all Medicaid recipients to confirm eligibility. But health advocates fear families who meet the program’s requirements may fail to requalify because of out-of-date addresses, language barriers, and a lack of knowledge about the change.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that about 3.9 million children will eventually lose Medicaid coverage due to states’ reviews, despite otherwise being eligible. Another 1.4 million children will be deemed no longer eligible for Medicaid coverage because of factors like increases in family income, the agency estimates.
How school districts can help families prepare for a shift in Medicaid policy
As trusted community messengers, schools and districts can help families ensure they understand the policy change and that they are prepared to prove eligibility, said Dr. Laura Guerra-Cardus, the director of state Medicaid strategy at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in an interview with Education Week last month.
“The potential massive loss of health care coverage really requires an all-hands-on-deck effort, and we cannot assume it is being handled elsewhere,” said Guerra-Cardus, whose think tank advocates for social programs.
She worked with the Georgetown University Center on Children and Families and AASA, the School Superintendents Association, to create communication materials in both Spanish and English that schools can use in ongoing awareness campaigns.
Those materials, released this week, include:
- A one-page explanation of the policy change with key messages for families.
- A list of local partners that can help families with paperwork and address changes.
- Copy for district blogs and newsletters.
- A script for a 60-second robocall that can be sent through family notification systems.
- A draft of an email to parents and guardians.
- Prewritten social media posts for school and district channels.
What students and their families need to know
The materials released this week emphasize these core talking points:
- Families, especially those who have relocated during the pandemic, should contact their state Medicaid offices to ensure their contact information is up to date.
- Families should watch their mail for letters about Medicaid and their state Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, status. (This program serves children in families that are low-income but fall above the Medicaid threshold.)
- Recipients must submit any renewal forms they receive to maintain coverage, which states could mail at any point in the next year, between March 2023 and February 2024.
- Families who no longer qualify for Medicaid after the review may qualify for coverage through their state’s health insurance exchange.
Why students’ loss of Medicaid coverage matters for schools
Widespread loss of health care coverage could affect schools, advocates said, so leaders have a particular interest in preparing for the shift.
The pandemic has underlined how much health and learning are intertwined, and lapses in coverage could prevent students from receiving needed therapies and medications, organizations said.
Schools have also increasingly relied on Medicaid to help cover the costs of some student services, including mental health treatments and health screenings.
AASA estimates that Medicaid pays for about $4 billion in school-based services a year, making it the third- or fourth-largest source of federal funding for schools.