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Appalachia Health News tells the story of our health challenges and how we overcome them throughout the region. 

Parents Urged To Check Insurance Status Ahead Of Likely Winter Illness Surge

Doctor vaccinating little girl in hospital. Health care
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‎As medical experts warn parents of a possible "tridemic" of RSV, flu and COVID-19, a pediatrician says it’s a good time to check your child’s health insurance in order to avoid medical debt.

As medical experts warn parents of a possible "tridemic" of RSV, flu and COVID-19, a pediatrician says it’s a good time to check your child’s health insurance in order to avoid medical debt.

Around 60 percent of kids are covered by Medicaid or the West Virginia Children’s Health Insurance Program, better known as CHIP.

Families using these programs for insurance coverage have been automatically re enrolled during the current COVID-19 federal public health emergency.

The public health emergency will remain in effect until mid-January, and the Department of Health and Human Services has promised to give 60 days’ notice ahead of letting the public health emergency expire.

But Dr. Jennifer Gerlach, vice president of the West Virginia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said now is the time to verify children’s insurance status ahead of any federal changes or costly medical bills.

“We don't want it to be a situation where it’s harder for parents to seek health care for their children because of their health insurance status,” Gerlach said. “We want to make sure everyone is covered … so West Virginia children can get help when they need it.”

Health care accounts for one of the country’s leading sources of debt, and NPR reported more than 100 million Americans are saddled with medical debt.

Gerlach, who also serves as the state’s medical consultant for CHIP, said Medicaid and CHIP applications are down 30 percent.

Once the public health emergency is lifted, families will have to re enroll in Medicaid and CHIP.

“We want to make sure families are re enrolled so they don’t lose their coverage,” Gerlach said.

Contact the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources to check the status of Medicaid and CHIP coverage.

Reporter, aknisely@wvpublic.org

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