Medicaid is the single largest insurer for children in the United States. The program covers more than 35.5 million children nation-wide and more than 2 million children in New York State alone. On May 4, the House of Representatives voted to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and cut more than $830 billion from the Medicaid program. In addition to these dramatic cuts, Congress has also proposed to lower the federal minimum Medicaid eligibility threshold for children under 19 from 138 percent of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) (about $28,000 for a family of three) to 100 percent of FPL (about $20,000 for a family of three). A new policy brief from the Institute for Child, Youth, and Family Policy at Brandeis University shows what these cuts to Medicaid and change in eligibility will mean for school-aged children.
According to the policy brief, there are currently 15.2 million children eligible for Medicaid coverage in the U.S. The proposed change in the federal minimum eligibility for the Medicaid program would reduce the number of eligible children by 4.7 million. The brief also explains that eligible children are disproportionately Black and Hispanic or Latino. This is also true in New York State. According to the brief, New York ranks fourth in the nation for the number of Hispanic or Latino children who would lose Medicaid eligibility under this change (90,600) and fifth for the number of Black children who would lose Medicaid eligibility (48,400).
New York State has always been a leader in children’s health coverage. New York currently has an insurance rate for children of more than 97 percent, and all children under the age of 19 are eligible for health insurance regardless of immigration status. New York State also has a Medicaid eligibility level for school-aged children of 149 percent of FPL (about $30,000 for a family of three) through 2019, which is greater than the federal minimum eligibility under the ACA. However, even with these many steps in the right direction, Black and Hispanic or Latino children remain more likely to be uninsured than other New York children. Cuts to Medicaid and reduction of the federal Medicaid eligibility level would be a huge step backward and only serve to exacerbate existing health inequities for New York’s children.