The number of Ohio kids enrolled in benefit programs like Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) has dropped.
Recent data from the Children's Defense Fund shows the largest year-over-year decline in kids registering for food stamps in Ohio in a decade. From 2017 to 2018, about 50,000 children are estimated to have stopped utilizing SNAP benefits.
From 2016-2018, about 30,000 fewer children were enrolled in CHIP.
Part of the change can be attributed to the economy – when unemployment is low, enrollment in benefits programs usually drops. However, Tracy Najera of the Children’s Defense Fund says she doesn't believe that's the whole story.
"As we would see a decrease in the number of children enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid programs, we would see an increase in number of children enrolling in private insurance," she says.
But Ohio hasn't experienced such an increase. So if kids aren’t being added to their parent’s private insurance, the question remains: Why aren’t they re-enrolling for Medicaid or CHIP?
"Is it really an issue where they're growing out of eligibility? Which in and of itself is a great thing, that's what we want, we want people to be self sustainable," she asks. "Or is it something else?"
Najera hypothesizes confusion about enrollment could discourage people from registering. She points to recent political debate over what can be defined as "public charge" for dissuadding immigrants from enrolling.
In 2018, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security released a proposal to broaden the term, which would make it more difficult for immigrants utilizing benefits to get permanent residence or a visa.