Medicaid Cuts Would Hurt Vulnerable Children at School

  • February 20, 2017
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Children across the country depend on Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for their health care, from well child exams to treatment of chronic conditions. Cuts to these programs would have a devastating effect on children’s immediate and long-term health, compounded by another serious issue: such cuts would reduce schools’ ability to support children’s health and well-being.

What is the scope?

More than 45 million children have health insurance through Medicaid and CHIP. In fact, 45 percent of all children under age six and 35 percent of all children and adolescents age 6-18 are covered by these programs.

Medicaid funding is also a profoundly important resource for schools to provide health services that directly connect to learning. For example, schools may provide hearing and vision screenings, employ school nurses or behavioral health specialists to meet urgent needs, or provide health services to treat common conditions that keep students out of school. In meeting federal requirements to provide fair access to education, nearly all public schools provide medical supports to students with disabilities who need these supports to fully participate in school. One of the ways schools pay for these services is with funding from Medicaid.

What is the threat?

Now, Congress and the White House are considering various changes to how the federal government will pay for Medicaid; the proposals under consideration share a common theme of reducing federal Medicaid spending and shifting costs to the states. If enacted, these types of changes will have a profound and negative impact on state spending on health care.  With less federal funding to support health care costs, states will be forced to consider cutting provider rates, cutting eligibility or reducing benefit packages. The net effective will be a diminished capacity to provide needed services.

Reducing federal Medicaid spending has the potential to negatively impact the resources that enable schools to deliver health services to the nation’s most vulnerable children.

What is at stake?

AASA, The School Superintendents Association has released a new report, Cutting Medicaid: A Prescription to Hurt the Neediest Kids, based on a January 2017 survey of 1,000 school administrators from 42 states. This report provides a clear picture of what is at stake for students and schools if Medicaid funding is cut. A few examples from the report, in administrators’ own words:

  • “Limiting funding to Medicaid would limit their access to quality health care, thus diminishing opportunities for success in school.”
  • “The impact would greatly increase our absenteeism as well as put students at risk for lower academic achievement.”
  • “This would drive our spending further into deficit spending and increase our property taxes while also compromising some services to kids.”
  • “This would lead to reduced services for children with disabilities, especially children with significant cognitive and motor delays.”
  • “Every year we see an increase in both the severity of mental health issues and the frequency of occurrences within our student population. Cutting funding at this time will create a crisis situation in our schools.”

AASA has also released an infographic based on the report, 8 Facts about Kids on Medicaid and the Services They Receive in Schools.

What is HSC doing?

HSC is committed to ensuring access to high-quality health and behavioral health services for all children, and recognizes the critical role that Medicaid and CHIP play in paying for those services.

For example, HSC and Trust for America’s Health supported the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in launching a learning collaborative to help states expand access to and resources for school health services through Medicaid reimbursement. Thirteen states are currently participating in the learning collaborative and working to leverage policy opportunities to increase access to school health services.

We will continue to support states in implementing Medicaid in a way that supports increased access to school health services and help states address any challenges that may arise from changes in how the federal government pays for Medicaid. We will continue to share timely updates and analysis about potential threats to Medicaid that would impact children’s’ coverage, and the ability of schools to serve their students.