Home Leading Schools Can Help Students Maintain Medicaid Coverage. Here’s How

Schools Can Help Students Maintain Medicaid Coverage. Here’s How

by Staff

New federal resources are designed to help schools inform families of possible disruptions to Medicaid —and to assist them if students lose coverage.

The toolkit, released by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services this month, includes pre-made materials like fact sheets and flyers, robocall scripts, and guidance for people who serve various roles in schools—including teachers, administrators, and school nurses.

Here’s what schools need to know.

Why are students at risk of losing Medicaid coverage?

Federal officials estimate 4 million children who otherwise qualify will lose coverage for logistical reasons as simple as a change of address as states review their Medicaid rolls for the first time since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

Why does Medicaid matter for schools?

The change comes as many schools seek to expand their use of Medicaid to pay for services like counseling, physical therapy, and school-based health care under new flexibilities enacted in 2022. Medicaid pays for about $4 billion in school-based services a year, according to an estimate from AASA, the School Superintendents Association.

And, even if schools don’t rely on Medicaid, they have an interest in seeing their students maintain health care coverage, children’s advocacy groups said. That’s because children without access to health care may be more prone to absences due to health conditions, like asthma.

Why is this change to Medicaid happening now?

The continuous coverage policy, enacted as part of the 2020 Families First Coronavirus Response Act, required states to keep participants enrolled in Medicaid during the pandemic without the regular review process used to ensure they still qualify.

After that rule expired in March, states have begun a yearlong process of sending out forms to verify eligibility, a process known as “unwinding.” But advocates are concerned that some low-income families may be unaware of the shift. And some families may have moved multiple times during the pandemic, so state agencies won’t know where to send their forms.

What can schools do to help students keep Medicaid coverage?

Advocates say schools can take simple steps to inform families of the change and emphasize that:

  • Families should watch for letters from their state Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, administrators. (This program serves children in families that are low-income but fall above the Medicaid threshold.)
  • Medicaid recipients also should contact their state’s agencies to ensure their addresses are up to date.

As state reviews progress and children lose coverage, schools can help connect families to community partners who may be able to help them re-enroll in Medicaid, explore CHIP eligibility, or seek coverage on their state’s health insurance exchange, district officials told Education Week this month.

What federal resources are available to help schools with Medicaid unwinding?

The toolkitincludes a variety of resources, in Spanish and English, designed to help schools make families aware of their options.

“You’re in a unique position to help the children and families in your school or early-learning community retain their health care coverage,” the document says in an opening message to educators.

Among the ways school staff can help, according to the resource:

  • Teachers can mention the Medicaid changes in conversations with parents and send the flyers home in students’ backpacks.
  • Administrators can send messages through their parent texting and robocall systems and display posters in offices and athletics facilities.
  • School nurses can include information about Medicaid enrollment in messages about student vaccines and school health policies.
  • School social workers and counselors can set up an information table at back-to-school or open house nights for families to update forms and ask questions.
  • School district administrators can add a check box to students’ emergency contact forms where parents can ask for more information or assistance. They can also display a banner on school websites to link to resources, like LocalHelp.HealthCare.gov, where families can find help from someone in their area.

Access the new Medicaid toolkit for schools here.

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