Limiting Medicaid Reimbursements Not Smart for Schools or Kids

March 02, 2007

by Rochelle Davis, HSC Executive Director

It’s encouraging to see growing support for the Protecting Children’s Health in Schools Act, legislation introduced in both the House and the Senate in response to the president’s proposed regulations limiting Medicaid reimbursement to schools. These regulations affect medical and health-related services that the poorest of the nation’s 7 million school children with disabilities need in order to attend school.

The president’s proposal would put additional strain on school district budgets by cutting $3.6 billion, over five years, for federally mandated services such as speech therapy and physical therapy for Medicaid-eligible students. This would represent a significant loss to school district funding, yet it represents a savings of only slightly more than 1 percent to the $350 billion Medicaid budget.

We know that school districts are already struggling financially, and that this type of cut can only lead to more limited opportunities for students — both in terms of academics and school health.

HSC has joined organizations and individuals around the country voicing opposition to the Medicaid reimbursement regulations, and we have asked each member of the Illinois congressional district to co-sponsor the Protecting Children’s Health in Schools Act.

This act requires the federal government to reimburse school districts for the costs of Medicaid-eligible essential services — such as speech therapy, physical therapy and transportation — that they provide to students with disabilities. The bill also includes accountability measures to ensure that funds are appropriately tracked and distributed.

In a press release from the bill’s co-sponsors, Sen. Kennedy said, “For children with special needs, health care is an essential part of their school day. With all of the challenges they face, why should they be deprived of the support they need to learn and thrive in school?”

Rep. Dingell adds, “Many schools across this country are trying desperately to help these special needs children, and we should be doing the same.”

I hope that our elected officials remember the responsibility to protect reimbursement for the critical services schools provide to children with disabilities.