Happy birthday, Medicaid

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN | 8/7/2017, 6:29 a.m.
“It was a generation ago that Harry Truman said, and I quote him: ‘Millions of our citizens do not now ...

• Medicaid is especially important for children of color who are twice as likely as White children to be poor.

• The ACA’s expansion of Medicaid to 11 million low-income adults enabled them to receive services and treatment. • Without Medicaid, many children would go uninsured or underinsured, increasing short and long-term costs for states and local communities and jeopardizing children’s academic performance and futures.

Medicaid guarantees coverage to millions.

• Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment benefit guarantees children a full range of comprehensive primary and preventive care and access to all medically necessary health and mental health services.

• Medicaid guarantees health coverage to all eligible applicants without waiting lists or enrollment caps.

• Medicaid expands as needs grow and more who are eligible require assistance.

A smart investment.

• Research comparing children eligible for Medicaid to their non-eligible peers found Medicaid eligible children were more likely to attend college, make greater contributions as adult taxpayers and live longer than those without coverage.

• Medicaid is far more efficient and cost effective than private insurance for children.

• Medicaid funding also offers critical support to hospitals and helps prevent increases in uncompensated care and declines in their operating margins which can force some of them to close, seriously impacting their local economies.

Changes to Medicaid:

• Education. Since child health impacts educational attainment, any structural changes to Medicaid would compromise returns on other major investments in children’s education from Early Head Start to college. Medicaid not only helps ensure our nation’s most disadvantaged children are healthy and learning in school, but reimburses schools for services delivered to Medicaid-enrolled children. Schools currently receive about $4 billion in Medicaid reimbursement each year.

• Child Welfare. Medicaid helps address needs that can otherwise result in children coming to the attention of the child welfare system. It helps treat children in foster care most of whom have experienced trauma in their lives; provides continuing support for children who move from foster care to guardianship with relatives; assures children with special needs who are adopted from foster care permanent families; and continues specialized treatment for some children who transition from foster care without permanent families and face special challenges.

We have been asking a question for months: Will our president and congressional leaders preserve Medicaid as we know it and reject structural changes and cuts that undermine its critical protections for vulnerable populations? Or will we see a generation of harsh, callous congressional and presidential leadership?

Thank God there is some good news from the U.S. Senate that last week voted to preserve Medicaid as we know it, at least for now, and to reject the Health Care Freedom Act by a 51 to 49 vote. While we must be diligent and watch for proposed deep cuts and other attacks on Medicaid as Congress considers the 2018 Budget Resolution, tax reform and other reform initiatives, we all should give special thanks to those who worked so hard to make the case in their own states and communities to protect Medicaid and other critical pieces of the ACA.

We know Medicaid works and on its birthday celebrate its more than 50 years of success. And we must continue to reject any actions and any leaders who threaten the health and futures of the tens of millions of our children and vulnerable adults.

Marian Wright Edelman is the president of the Children’s Defense Fund. For more information, go to http://www.childrensdefense.org.