Feb 5, 2024 - Health

Florida challenges federal requirement to keep kids on health insurance

Illustration of a gavel hovering over a block with an image of a red cross.

Illustration: Gabriella Turrisi/Axios

Florida is suing the Biden administration over a new policy limiting when states can remove children from public health insurance programs.

Why it matters: The lawsuit challenges the implementation of a law requiring states to let kids remain eligible for Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program for 12 straight months before reviewing their status, regardless of life changes that mean they may no longer qualify.

The big picture: Florida has removed about 420,000 children from Medicaid and CHIP since April, when states resumed eligibility determinations that had been paused during the pandemic.

  • Florida is among the states requiring CHIP enrollees to pay monthly premiums, and it wants the ability to remove kids from the program if their families don't pay.
  • The new continuous enrollment law includes limited exceptions to the coverage requirement, but failure to pay premiums isn't one of them. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services confirmed this to states in October.

What they're saying: Gov. Ron DeSantis' administration argues that the Biden administration's interpretation of the law would "turn [CHIP] into a free-for-all, threatening both its solvency and long-term stability."

The other side: Children's health advocates say the opposite is true. If Florida's lawsuit succeeds, more children will end up churning out of health insurance, said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families.

  • "This is harmful and puts children's health and educational outcomes at risk in both the short and the long term," Alker said in a statement.
  • CMS told Axios that it is aware of the lawsuit but does not comment on pending litigation.
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