School districts are in a unique position to help children and their families retain their Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program benefits as the programs transition from pandemic-era automatic renewals, according to a toolkit for school administrators issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this month.
K-12 and early childhood educators, administrators, staff and parent-teacher associations can help families be aware of the change in public health policy through letters, robocalls, text messages, social media and other communications, the toolkit said.
About 536,400 children have lost public health insurance since April due to the change known as "unwinding," according to an analysis from the Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy's Center for Children and Families. The center estimates that up to 6.7 million children could become uninsured for some period of time.
Raising awareness about continuous coverage also benefits school systems that rely on Medicaid reimbursements for school-based health services, said AASA, The School Superintendents Association, in a blog post earlier this year.
Keeping students enrolled in Medicaid will be especially important for the fiscal health of those districts. Medicaid reimbursements for school-based services is the third- or fourth-largest federal revenue stream for school systems, according to the Medicaid in Schools Coalition.
To keep Medicaid and CHIP benefits, families will need to annually complete renewal paperwork.
It's possible, however, that some would lose coverage due to procedural reasons such as families not receiving notice to complete the renewal paperwork because of outdated contact information.
This is where schools can assist, CMS said. For example, schools can send communications to parents urging them to update their contact information with their state Medicaid and CHIP program and respond to renewal notices.
Schools can also message families and children who have become ineligible for coverage and share information about other potential options for health insurance, such as through their employers and the Affordable Care Act Marketplace.
CMS calls the unwinding awareness campaign an "all-hands-on-deck effort." As of March 2023, before the unwinding process began, more than 35.1 million children were enrolled in Medicaid, and about 4.3 million were enrolled in the CHIP program, according to GU's Center for Children and Families.