CMS raises alarm as vaccinations, screenings decline in Medicaid and CHIP due to COVID-19

BD vaccine syringe
Vaccination rates are on the decline in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, concerning Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services officials. (BD)

The Trump administration is concerned about a precipitous decline among vaccination, primary and preventive services rates for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released new data Wednesday on rates for several services since the start of the pandemic in March. The agency said it is releasing the data to raise awareness of the services CHIP and Medicaid provide.

“I call on states, pediatric providers, families, and schools to ensure children catch-up on overdue medical, behavioral health and dental appointments as well as childhood immunizations,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma in a statement Wednesday.

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Between March and May, there were 22% fewer vaccinations received among children up to age 2 compared to the same period in 2019. There was a 44% decline among screening services for physical and cognitive development issues in children.

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The biggest decrease was for dental services; 69% fewer procedures were performed compared with 2019. Dental offices were forced to close at the onset of the pandemic and then eventually reopened to reduced capacity.

“Although this analysis only focuses on data through May 2020 because of the natural lag between when a service occurs and when CMS data, the precipitous decline in services remains a cause for concern,” CMS said in a release.

The data follow other evidence of healthcare utilization declines due to the pandemic as hospitals were forced to cancel or delay elective procedures to preserve capacity to fight COVID-19, and patients were afraid to go to the doctor’s office for fear of contracting the virus.