HARRISBURG, Pa. — Since the pandemic began, public health coverage for children has increased by 10% in Pennsylvania, and a new report underscored best practices to help ensure that affordable health care is accessible for kids and families.

Becky Ludwick, vice president of public policy at Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, the group that published the report, said one possible explanation for more kids being insured is Medicaid’s “disenrollment freeze,” put in place to keep people covered when the federal Public Health Emergency was declared.

Ludwick said it is important to enact more policies to ensure people maintain their coverage.

“One of the simpler things that we’re recommending is to ensure that addresses are current for sending renewals,” Ludwick explained. “And the reason that’s important is because we have been in a public health emergency since March of 2020. And during that time, many individuals may have moved.”

Her organization’s 2021 State of Children’s Health Care report suggests the state also help residents who lose Medicaid coverage to have a smooth transition to other public insurance programs, such as Pennie, the state’s health insurance marketplace, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The report also flagged some of the pandemic’s disproportionate impacts on families of color. Black households with children were three times more likely to have lost employment income than white households with children.

Ludwick argued guaranteeing continuous health coverage for all families enrolled in Medicaid is critical to prevent further economic hardship.

“We often see where families have seasonal employment, so their incomes can fluctuate from month to month or from different seasons,” Ludwick observed. “And so, even those slight changes in income could potentially leave families at risk of losing their health insurance.”

Pennsylvania has continuous eligibility for 12 months for all children in CHIP, and kids under four who are covered through Medicaid.