Student Well-Being

Children’s Health Impact Seen in Medicaid Debate

By Nirvi Shah — August 07, 2012 1 min read

As some governors say they’ll back off federal plans to expand Medicaid—and with Maine’s governor planning to cut current rolls—advocates for children’s health warn of a rollback in the progress made in insuring poor children.

Research shows that children’s ability to learn is tied to their health, so a drop in the number of children with health insurance could affect some students’ performance at school.

But the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act says states cannot be threatened with a loss of existing Medicaid dollars for refusing to expand the health-care program for the poor. Some Republican governors have said they will not expand the program in their states.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute’s Center for Children and Families outline in a recent memo the potential effects if Florida, Texas, Wisconsin, and other states decline to expand Medicaid—an expansion in which the federal government would pick up all or nearly all of the tab for years.

The expansion would allow many low-income families not eligible for Medicaid to qualify. But they wouldn’t be able to get help buying insurance through the health-care exchanges to be formed under the 2010 law, so without an expansion, they would likely continue to lack access to coverage.

While the federal Children’s Health Insurance Program has helped increase the number of poor children with health insurance, coverage for their parents is also critical, the groups say. (A June Government Accountability Office report notes that about three-quarters of the 7 million children uninsured before the law passed would become eligible for Medicaid, CHIP, or other paths to coverage.)

The groups say low-income families are three times more likely to have children eligible for insurance but without coverage, than are families in which parents are covered by private insurance or Medicaid. Previous Medicaid expansions for parents have led to significant increases in the enrollment of eligible children and decreases in uninsured children.

The nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, based in Washington, focuses on policies and programs affecting low- and moderate-income people.

A version of this article appeared in the August 08, 2012 edition of Education Week

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