health care

Diminishing Safety Net: Expiring Pandemic Relief Puts Ohio Children at Risk

Pandemic relief support for Ohio families is set to expire this Spring and this means the loss of benefits to many of Ohio’s most vulnerable. A new study by The Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families reviewed the impact of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Medicaid on bringing down state’s uninsured rate, finding that it “proved to be a critical lifeline for more than half of the nation’s children during the pandemic.” 

Provisions increasing the federal contribution to state Medicaid programs while requiring states to maintain continuous coverage for Medicaid patients  will expire on April 1st, resulting in an estimated 6.7 million children losing coverage due to a loss of income eligibility and bureaucratic red tape.

The Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio said nearly half of children in Ohio are covered by Medicaid and other public health insurance programs. The study states that, “The uninsured rate for children could easily more than double if states have inadequate staffing levels and overwhelmed call centers and do not take the time and care needed to properly conduct eligibility checks after the federal protections lift.”

In December of 2022, Governor Mike Dewine joined other Republican governors, calling for an end to the Public Health Emergency and emergency provisions. He cited increased costs for Medicare due to the expansion of eligibility that added 20 million individuals to the Medicaid rolls, an increase of 30%.

SNAP Benefits Reduced

In addition to the possibility of health coverage losses, Ohio’s families also face a significant decrease in food assistance. Ohioans in need saw about $120 million a month in increased food assistance through SNAP benefits dollars as part of the pandemic emergency funding. This includes thousands of Ohio families as well as senior citizens.

Advocates worry that, while the pandemic insecurities have subsided, inflation for basic necessities has increased the need for extra assistance. They fear that the expiration of these added nutritional benefits will leave thousands of Ohio children food insecure.

Executive Director Jeffrey Diver of Supports to Encourage Low-income Families (SELF) remarked, “It’s concerning, anytime there’s support for low income individuals and families that is taken away the question is how will that additional support be made up,” Diver said. “For many hard working families there aren’t options beyond multiple jobs, or jobs working long hours in order to feed their families.”

Next Steps for Ohio Families

Children’s advocates are preparing for the possible influx of need. They advise that, “…states that take their time, work closely with community partners, extend continuous coverage periods for children (which can be even longer than 12 months with approved Section 1115 authority), and dedicate the needed resources to the process could avoid large coverage losses and even reimagine their systems for a brighter future for children.”

Food banks are preparing for an increase in need. They are bracing for what could be a “perfect storm” for food insecurity. They are adjusting their budgets and working closely with partners across the state.

National leaders continue to support a permanent extension of social safety net programs such as an increased child tax credit, Medicaid expansion, and nutrition security as a part of President Biden’s Build Back Better framework. These provisions were cut from most recent legislation, however, and analysts do not see room for future legislation with a GOP majority in the House of Representatives.

In Ohio, Governor Mike Dewine’s Bold Beginnings Initiative proposes increased support for families with children. Many of these proposals will require legislation, though, and are not easy to implement through executive action.




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