States kick over 2 million kids off Medicaid so far this year

By Brian Williams
November 27, 2023

With pitiless disregard for the consequences, state officials have kicked at least 2 million children off Medicaid coverage over the past seven months, exacerbating severe challenges workers face trying to raise and care for families.

“The figures, which are likely a significant undercount, represent one of the fastest and most dramatic ruptures in the American safety net since Medicaid went into law in 1965,” said a Nov. 9 New York Times article.

Under the federal COVID-19 pandemic public health emergency program, begun in January 2020 under the Donald Trump administration, enrollment in Medicaid or the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program rose from 71 million to 93 million people over the next three years. It covered over 25% of the U.S. population and half of all children. Medicaid paid for 41% of births in the U.S.

In April, after the pandemic program was ended, Democratic and Republican state authorities began kicking millions off the rolls. More than 8.5 million people have lost Medicaid benefits so far this year. Millions more are on the chopping block. According to the Commonwealth Fund, about 15 million people will lose Medicaid coverage during what they call a “redetermination” process.

One sign of the authorities’ utter indifference toward workers is that a number of parents didn’t find out that their children were no longer covered until they went to see a doctor or got drugs from a pharmacy. Without Medicaid insurance parents feel pressured to cancel doctor appointments because they can’t cover the exorbitant expenses.

Parents “are being asked to make a decision between their children’s health care and something else that is a necessity,” Dr. Valerie Borum Smith, a pediatrician in Tyler, Texas, told the Times.

“When you can’t help your kids, you feel like you’re failing,” Christina Ragsdale from Lady Lake, Florida, told the paper when her children twice lost Medicaid coverage. “Her 13-year-old son, Aaron, went without his A.D.H.D. medication at school until a family member covered the out-of-pocket costs, which ran over $1,000 for a monthlong supply.”

Nearly three-quarters of those removed from Medicaid rolls recently were for “procedural” reasons, including missing or incorrect paperwork, errors by state officials or outdated contact information. Efforts to get kids back on Medicaid can take awhile, given the bureaucratic hassles parents have to go through.

Since April, officials in Texas have kicked more people off Medicaid than any other state — 900,000 — nearly 80% of whom are children. Even before this, it had the nation’s highest rate of uninsured, at 16.6%.

In response to outrage expressed by workers over these cuts, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a letter Aug. 30 saying states had until Sept. 13 to fix what it called “operational issues” that were causing so many children to lose their coverage. But the letter has had little impact, as state authorities are still slashing the number of Medicaid enrollees.

These attacks are part and parcel of the broader assaults on health care provisions carried out by Democratic and Republican politicians alike. Infant mortality in the U.S. increased last year for the first time in two decades. The death rate for women who give birth has also been going up, as maternity wards and rural hospitals are closing.

Workers bear brunt of crisis

Declining access to health care is one piece of the capitalists’ broader offensive aimed at putting the crisis of their for-profit system on workers’ backs.

Despite liberal media proclamations about the roaring success of President Joseph Biden’s economic policies, a report found U.S. consumer spending had fallen for the last four consecutive months. Over the year since October 2022, credit-card debt rose by $154 billion, the largest rise on record. Even McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski had to admit last month that far fewer “low-income consumers” were able to afford taking their families to the fast-food giant, renowned as one of the cheapest, compared to a year ago.

At the same time, it’s getting harder to get a job. Unemployment has risen half a percent since April and the number of seasonal jobs advertised this fall is the lowest in a decade.

“Unions must lead a fight for jobs with wages, work schedules and conditions necessary for families to live rather than get torn apart,” Alyson Kennedy, Socialist Workers Party candidate for U.S. Senate from Texas, told the Militant.

“Health care should be a right, available and free to all, not a profit-making business,” she said. “To win this, workers need to build a revolutionary party that can lead millions to take political power into our own hands and run society in the interests of the majority.”