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Report: Pandemic exposed deep disparities in health coverage for Pa. kids | Friday Morning Coffee

While threats to safety net programs existed before the pandemic, newly released data shows the pandemic’s ‘disproportional impacts … by race and ethnicity on Pennsylvania households with children’

November 5, 2021 7:13 am

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

There’s been plenty of anecdotal evidence about the economic hardships the COVID-19 pandemic inflicted on families in Pennsylvania and nationwide. But a newly released report tries to quantify that data, while it illustrates the disproportionate hardships suffered by Black and brown Pennsylvanians over the last 18 months.

For instance:

  • “Black households with children were nearly 3.5x more likely to report they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat in the past week than NonHispanic White households with children,
  • “Black adults in households with children were nearly 1.5x more likely to delay medical care because of the COVID-19 pandemic than Non-Hispanic White adults in households with children,”
  • And “60% of Black households with children reported difficulty paying for usual household expenses, including rent or mortgage, medical expenses, food, and car payments, compared to 24% of Non-Hispanic White households with children, and 16% of Asian households with children.”

The new report, compiled by the Harrisburg-based advocacy group, Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, warns that “these disparities will continue to deepen if not directly addressed.”

The report casts a wide net, looking at the pandemic’s impact on enrollment across several, publicly funded insurance programs, including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program; its effect on childhood vaccinations, and it examines how policy-makers can prepare for the end of the pandemic.

The group also acknowledges that, because of a lack of data brought on by the pandemic, “we do not have all of the pieces of the puzzle.”

“We know that enrollment in Medicaid increased for children of color, which might be due to the loss of employer-sponsored insurance,” the report’s authors wrote. “Additionally, being out of work could certainly result in not being able to put enough food on the table. Delaying medical care could be for reasons such as avoiding waiting rooms or public transportation for fear of contracting COVID-19.

“Using data disaggregated by race and ethnicity coupled with feedback from impacted communities can help achieve equitable outcomes,” the document concluded.

(Source: Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children)

Though challenged by the same lack of data, the report does attempt to quantify if an ongoing shift away from employer-sponsored insurance to public coverage for children was exacerbated by the pandemic.

(Source: Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children)

The currently available data suggests that’s the case, since “enrollment in public coverage has increased during the pandemic as families have turned to Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and Pennie, the state-based marketplace, for free or low-cost health insurance options.”

Taken together, those three sources provided coverage for 45.9 percent of the commonwealth’s children, the report concluded.

All 67 of the state’s counties showed increased enrollment in Medicaid and the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, for an overall increase statewide of about 10 percent, according to the report. The 10 counties with the highest percentage change in enrollment, ranging from 12.8 percent to 18.6 percent, were: Bradford, Northumberland, Adams, Centre, Susquehanna, Chester, Carbon, Dauphin, Sullivan, and Cumberland counties, the report showed. The 10 counties logging the lowest percentage change in enrollment, ranging from 1.5 percent to 8.4 percemt, were: Forest, Cameron, Philadelphia, Erie, Bedford, Wyoming, Jefferson, Allegheny, Blair, and Fayette counties, the report showed.

(Source: Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children)

The report makes a number of recommendations to policymakers.

Among them:

  • “Encouraging the [Department of Human Services] to use the full 12 months permitted to complete [coverage] renewals for everyone at their next annual renewal due date, holding pregnant adults until after April 2022 to account for the expected postpartum extension.
  • “Enhancing the automated renewal process, also known as “ex-parte” renewals, where the state reviews electronic data sources to renew coverage automatically without the family having to submit forms,” and
  • “Ensuring a smooth transition to Pennie or CHIP for those terminated from Medicaid to keep children connected to health insurance. DHS should work with Pennie to make sure it can electronically transmit all necessary data fields for Pennie to make determinations about eligibility for its insurance affordability programs, and update notices to families explaining the process of shopping for plans and eligibility for reduced premiums.”

“As we have illustrated throughout this report, there are practical and policy steps to better connect Pennsylvania children to health insurance and reduce known disparities,” the report concludes. “We invite other child health care advocates, medical professionals, and policymakers to join us in ensuring that every child living in Pennsylvania has regular and uninterrupted access to health care as the first line of defense to remaining healthy.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
With the green light from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to administer the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to kids ages 5 through 11, communities are inching closer to a return to normal, Marley Parish reports.

Many private employers beginning in January will have to ensure their workers either are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or that they will undergo weekly testing and wear a face covering, under a new federal rule announced Thursday by the White HouseCapital-Star Washington Reporter Laura Olson writes.

Fresh off their 2021 wins, Pennsylvania Republicans are eyeing a bright midterm. Can Democrats stop them? Stephen Caruso takes up the question.

As the holiday season approaches – the busiest months for wine and spirits producers and sellers – industry experts and Pennsylvania’s state store system are urging consumers not to wait on buying  their beverages of choice, Cassie Miller reports.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 5,162 new cases of COVID-19 in the commonwealth on Thursday, bringing the statewide total to 1.58 million since the start of the pandemic, I report.

A grant program has channeled more than $836K to Black creatives in Pittsburgh, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

Lawmakers from Chesapeake Bay states are looking to attach a climate-related provision to the must-pass annual defense billCapital-Star Washington Reporter Jacob Fischler writes.

On our Commentary Page this morning: Climate change is a justice issue: These 6 charts show why, an Arizona State University expert writes.  And columnist Roger Chesley, of our sibling site, the Virginia Mercurysays there has to be a better way to balance police budgets.

En la Estrella-Capital: Allentown elige al primer alcalde hispano; rechaza la eliminación de que la disposición del estatuto sea solamente en inglés.

WASHINGTON, DC – JANUARY 06: A protester holds a Trump flag inside the US Capitol Building near the Senate Chamber on January 06, 2021 in Washington, DC. Congress held a joint session today to ratify President-elect Joe Biden’s 306-232 Electoral College win over President Donald Trump. A group of Republican senators said they would reject the Electoral College votes of several states unless Congress appointed a commission to audit the election results. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Elsewhere.
In a newly filed lawsuit, a Delaware County election worker says former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric about the election led to threats and gave him two heart attacks, the Inquirer reports.

Speaking of Delaware County, local Democrats are claiming victory in the race for county council, bucking bad trends for the party, WHYY-FM reports.

Pittsburgh will host a global summit of energy ministers in 2022, the Post-Gazette reports.

Not all state workers will receive paid leave under the vaccine incentive program the Wolf administration is offering, PennLive reports.

PPL’s residential rates will jump by 26 percent, nearly matching a 10-year high, LancasterOnline reports.

The Morning Call asks whether the state’s unspent billions in federal aid should be used to lower local taxes.

The Citizens’ Voice talks to area employers about the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate.

City & State Pa. runs down this week’s winners and losers in state politics.

The U.S. Department of Justice has sued Texas over its new voting restrictionsTalking Points Memo reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:

 

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What Goes On
The House and Senate both come in at 11 a.m. today.
10 a.m., Live Streamed: Senate Democratic Policy Committee

WolfWatch
Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out this morning to once (and future?) Pa. House candidate Heather MacDonald, of Camp Hill, Courtney McFarland, of the LeTort TrustSteve Ibanez, at Advance Local, veteran educator advocate, all of whom celebrate today, and to ex-RendellieDonna Cooper, who celebrates on Saturday. Congratulations and enjoy the day, all.

Heavy Rotation
We’ll go out this week with a classic from The Pet Shop Boys: Here’s the extended mix of ‘Suburbia.’


Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
Toronto pulled out a squeaker, beating Tampa 2-1 in overtime on Thursday night.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek
John L. Micek

A 3-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. An award-winning political reporter, Micek’s career has taken him from small town meetings and Chicago City Hall to Congress and the Pennsylvania Capitol. His weekly column on U.S. politics is syndicated to 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. He also contributes commentary and analysis to broadcast outlets in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Micek’s first novel, “Ordinary Angels,” was released in 2019 by Sunbury Press.

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