Many Toddlers Fail To Get Necessary Medicaid Renewal At Their First Birthday

Many babies born to mothers who are covered by Medicaid are automatically eligible for that coverage during the first year of their lives. In a handful of states, the same is true for babies born to women covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Yet, this smart approach is routinely undermined by another federal policy that requires babies’ eligibility be reevaluated on their first birthday. Although they’re likely still eligible for coverage, many of these toddlers fall through the cracks.

People often cycle in and out of Medicaid and CHIP, state/federal health programs for low-income residents, as their income or family circumstances change. Such “churning” is a long-recognized problem. The requirement that people renew their coverage annually may also cause hiccups.

“Many people lose Medicaid coverage for procedural reasons,” said Shelby Gonzales, senior health policy analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “But there are all sorts of things that are unique about babies turning 1” that present extra challenges.

“You hate any baby to lose coverage,” said Jill Hanken, a lawyer with the Virginia Poverty Law Center who has worked on this issue. “A 1-year-old needs to have consistency with their health care and visits with