When it comes to children’s health, there are two terrifying headlines this week. The Washington Post reports that “CDC data shows highest level yet of vaccine exemptions for kindergartners.” The New York Times says, “At Least 2 Million Children Have Lost Medicaid Insurance This Year.” These interlinking stories are both the results of decisions by Republicans to put MAGA anti-vaccine politics above children.
Vaccination refusal for kindergarteners increased from 2.6% during the 2021-2022 school year to 3% in 2022-2023, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in its most recent review of vaccination records. Every state and Washington, D.C., requires proof of vaccination for measles, whooping cough, and polio at a minimum. Every state allows exemptions for health reasons, but an increasing number of states allow them on religious or “philosophical” grounds.
No, it’s not just MAGA parents who refuse to participate responsibly in civil society by protecting their and other children. But the big increase, according to a December 2022 survey from Kaiser Family Foundation, is among Republicans. “Among Republicans and Republican-leaning independents, there has been a 24 percentage-point increase in the share” of people who say “parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate their school-age children, even if this creates health risks for others.” That’s an increase from 20% in 2019—before the pandemic and MAGA vaccine hysteria—to 44% in 2022.
Plenty of those kids and their school and playmates who either aren’t vaccinated or are put at greater risk by being exposed to unvaxxed kids don’t have health insurance anymore since pandemic-era expansions ended; more than 2 million of their policies, as the Times reports. It’s not clear how many have found coverage from other sources, Medicaid expert Joan Alker told the Times. She estimates that there are at least 1 million children without coverage.
That information comes, again, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, which has been following the “unwinding” of Medicaid coverage since the pandemic expansion of the program expired. That’s just among the 21 states that report the data on who has been kicked off the program by age.
“As of November 8, 2023, at least 2,006,000 children had been disenrolled out of 5,238,000 total disenrollments in the 21 states” KFF reports. Here’s the chart of those 21 states. It’s pretty clear that some of the reddest states have been the most effective in taking health care away from children.
The Medicaid unwinding process has been complicated and difficult for most states. Through the pandemic, Medicaid enrollees didn’t have to continuously prove their eligibility for benefits and 21.2 million people, including children, were added to the program during the pandemic. Some states (mostly the blue ones) worked hard to reach out to enrollees to explain to them how to keep their families covered. And some states (lots of the red ones) were less proactive in helping their citizens.
Both issues are political, and the results are children subject to harm. Kicking kids off of Medicaid and promoting the idea that vaccinations are dangerous and that public health isn’t as important as MAGA beliefs are part and parcel of the Republican ideology these days. That would be the self-proclaimed “party of life,” forcing children to be born so that they can then be neglected and out-and-out harmed by Republican policies.
Republished with permission from Daily Kos.