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CMS: Millions Forgo Care during Pandemic

Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries used 26 million fewer mental health services during pandemic’s first seven months

May 18, 2021

A new report from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) outlines the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted care, with millions of patients on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) missing appointments for critical dental, behavioral health, and preventive services.

“This new data provides a window into the impacts of the pandemic for marginalized communities—particularly children and other vulnerable people—and is critical as we work towards meeting the needs of those that rely on Medicaid and CHIP,” said CMS Acting Administrator Liz Richter in a statement.

CMS hosted a call with stakeholders today outlining its findings. The report, which evaluates data from March through October 2020, highlights the reduction in care for Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries in the following areas:

  • A 34 percent decline in the number of mental health services for children under 19, and a 22 percent decline in mental health services for adults between the ages of 19 and 64. This represents nearly 26 million fewer mental health services used across both groups
  • 1.8 million (9%) fewer childhood vaccinations for beneficiaries under age 2, and 4.6 million (21%) fewer child screening services among children under age 19
  • A 39 percent reduction in dental services (11.4 million services) among children under age 19 when compared to pre-pandemic levels
  • Substance use disorder service utilization fell by 3.6 million services, a 13 percent decline when compared to the same period during 2019

While some primary care and preventive services have returned to pre-pandemic levels, there still is a pressing need to connect people to mental health care and other care that declined during the pandemic, Richter said. CMS also is concerned about how the decline in care impacts outcomes over time, particularly when it comes to mental health.

CMS noted in its report that an increase in telehealth services was not enough to offset the decline in services in other areas. The agency said it plans to work with state and federal officials to increase access to care.

As of November 2020, more than 3.2 million Pennsylvanians were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP. HAP encourages people across the commonwealth to maintain routine health screenings and other preventive procedures. Last year, HAP launched a campaign highlighting the extensive safety protocols in place to ensure safe care during the pandemic and the importance of continuing routine care to prevent more serious health issues over time.

For more information, contact Robert Shipp III, PhD, BSN, RN, NEA-BC, HAP’s vice president, population health and clinical affairs.