Georgia at Its Lowest Rate of Uninsured Children in History

The state's child uninsured rate dropped to 6.6% in 2021, its lowest level in recent history. This drop represents a 19% decline from a peak of 8.1% in 2018.

Georgia recently reached its lowest level in history of uninsured children going without health coverage after being one of the South's states with the highest uninsurance rate.

The state reached its lowest rate due to protections provided by the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE) designed to prevent health coverage loss, according to a new report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF).

Georgia’s state policies have led to one of the highest uninsurance rates in their neighboring states, with an estimated 176,000 children not covered by insurance. Federal protections have been critical to keeping Georgia children and families enrolled during the pandemic.

Prior to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number and rate of uninsured children in Georgia had been going up for the first time in decades. With the assistance of the PHE, Georgia’s children have seen some of the most significant benefits in the country. The state's child uninsured rate dropped to 6.6% in 2021, its lowest level in recent history. This drop represents a 19% decline from a peak of 8.1% in 2018.

The state is now the second highest - aside from Florida - out of six as having the greatest number of risk factors for children losing coverage when the federal protections are lifted – which may happen as soon as January of 2023, the report said.

Since January 31, 2020, the federally declared public health emergency and related laws have prohibited states from disenrolling individuals from Medicaid in exchange for increased federal funding.

These protections have gone a long way in narrowing children’s health coverage gaps in Georgia.

Joan Alker, Executive Director, CCF. “It should not take a global pandemic for families to have an opportunity to access uninterrupted, reliable health care. Georgia must step up efforts to protect children’s coverage when the public health emergency protections lift. The buck will stop with the Governor on this one.”

With the federal continuous coverage protection set to lift in early 2023, the report calls for immediate action from leaders in Georgia to safeguard health coverage gains including eliminating premiums, implementing 12-month continuous eligibility for children enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and expanding Medicaid.

CMS recently approved Georgia’s application to implement Express Lane Eligibility, allowing the state to use SNAP and TANF application data to automatically determine Medicaid eligibility, starting in October, the report said. If implemented properly, this policy could help to relieve the renewal paperwork burden for a large portion of children currently enrolled in Medicaid, who will undergo redeterminations after the PHE ends.