Census Question Could Harm West Virginia's Medicaid Funding

In March, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross directed the Census Bureau to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. This proposal discourages participation, threatening the accuracy of the count and goes directly against the vital need to address the census’ historical under-counting of immigrants, low-income people, people of color and other under-served communities. Census data are used to appropriate hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funds for critical health and social programs, including Medicaid. 

What Health Advocates Can Do

Submit a comment letter to the Department of Commerce urging Secretary Ross to remove the citizenship status question from the Census. Submit your comments online HERE by August 7.

West Virginians Together for Medicaid strongly opposes the addition of a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. Asking an untested question about citizenship status will increase fear in immigrant communities – among people with undocumented status, legal non-citizen status and U.S. citizens alike – and decrease Census participation

We believe a full, fair and accurate census and the collection of useful, objective data about our West Virginia communities is very important. The federal government uses census-derived data to direct at least $800 billion annually in federal assistance to states, localities and families. About 61% of all funding guided by Census data is related to health programs. A full, fair and accurate census is critical for the functioning of many key health programs and for the health and well-being of all West Virginia communities.

We are particularly concerned about the impact on funding for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which improve access to care and health outcomes and reduce disparities. The data used to calculate the federal funding states receive to run their Medicaid and CHIP programs are derived from the Census, so any systematic undercounting of low-income communities could put Medicaid and CHIP funding in jeopardy. Any cuts to funding would almost certainly translate to fewer services for people receiving coverage through these programs, putting access to care and health outcomes at risk for low-income children, adults and people with disabilities, including citizens.

West Virginians Together for Medicaid