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Florida among top states for children losing health coverage post-COVID

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Trimmel Gomes

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(Florida News Connection) After Texas, a new report shows Florida has seen the second-largest decline in the number of children enrolled in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

Of the 4.16 million fewer children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP nationally, Florida accounts for nearly 600,000 enrollment declines - according to a report by Georgetown University's Center for Children and Families, tracking the Medicaid unwinding since COVID-related coverage protections were lifted.

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Alison Yager, executive director with the Florida Health Justice Project, said it's more like a crisis has been unfolding in Florida - and they've long been sounding the alarm.

"This, at its most extreme, can be a question of life or death, really," said Yager, "and short of that, we're seeing far too many families having to now scramble to figure out what's going to change in their monthly budget so they can now pay for whatever medication their kids require."

Yager cautioned that even if families qualify for one of Florida's KidCare programs, there are gaps in coverage.

Going without insurance, even briefly, can cause people to delay seeking care and leave them financially vulnerable when they do.

In February, the state sued the Center for Medicaid Services to stop them from enforcing 12 month continuous eligibility in the state's CHIP program.

The report is based on administrative data from the states to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Joan Alker - executive director of the Center for Children and Families at Georgetown - said Texas, Florida, Georgia and California accounted for half of the total national decline in kids with health insurance.

"This is a real crisis in these states for families whose children rely on Medicaid, but also for the providers that serve them - pediatricians and clinics," said Alker. "The system is really getting shaken up."

An April survey by KFF reveals that almost one fourth of adults who were removed from Medicaid - the program for low-income individuals - after pandemic-related protections ended last spring, now report being uninsured.