Medicaid is turning 50! Over the last five decades Medicaid has evolved and expanded into a prominent national program covering low-income individuals and families, individuals with disabilities, and the elderly population. Yet, Medicaid is holding fast to its roots of providing health coverage for low-income children. Currently 37% of all children in the United States receive coverage provided under Medicaid. In Kentucky (as of 2012), nearly 48% of the Medicaid population are children, or about 445,000 children.
So, what are the long-term benefits of Medicaid for children? The Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, Center for Children and Families (CCF) recently issued a report outlining three findings:
- Children covered under Medicaid are able to live healthier lives as adults
Based on CCF’s longitudinal study over several decades, children receiving Medicaid showed a reduction in eating disorders, drinking, high blood pressure, and mortality. Over time, as the children became adults, the report indicated lower hospital and emergency room utilization among these individuals.
- Children could experience greater achievement in educational settings
Due to the expansions in Medicaid, more children were able to receive health care benefits. In doing so, children are healthier, have fewer absences from school, and have increased learning opportunities. Students receiving Medicaid are graduating from high-school and post-secondary institutions at higher rates than ever before.
- Children’s ability to access Medicaid benefits could determine economic success later in life
Studies show us that low-income children who access health care through Medicaid have higher economic mobility as they grow older. These children are likely to surpass their parents’ economic status and move out of poverty.
We know that the combined efforts of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) has reduced the number of uninsured children by half since 1997. And with the expansion of Medicaid in Kentucky, more parents in Kentucky are now able to receive coverage; research shows us that when parents have health coverage, their children are more likely to be enrolled in coverage as well. Additionally, a reduction in the uninsured rate can be attributed to foster youth being covered under Medicaid until age 26. As a model for the South, Kentucky is at the forefront of improving health care for children and young adults. Medicaid helps children lead healthier lives, an advantage which propels them forward educationally and economically. 50 years of Medicaid has been good for Kentucky kids; here’s to many more!