Medicaid matters to children

August 30, 2012

Three of every 10 children in the U.S. rely for their health needs on Medicaid, the single largest health insurer of children. Access to Medicaid not only ensures that 30 million children receive adequate medical care and preventive services, but also benefits society.

Because of Medicaid, low-income families are protected from burdensome medical expenses. Children with Medicaid are more likely to receive timely and appropriate medical care than uninsured children, saving the entire health care system money.

Although children represent half of all Medicaid enrollees, they account for only 25 percent of Medicaid spending. Without Medicaid, most if not all of these children would have no health insurance.

Over the past decade the rates of uninsured children has dropped substantially because of prior Medicaid expansion through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Between 1997 and 2005, the number of uninsured children fell by more than one-third, from 23 percent to 14 percent, and currently 437,000 Maryland children are enrolled in Medicaid.

However, despite these benefits to children and their families, and the relative low cost compared to adult expenditures, Medicaid is under attack. Many congressmen and state governors are calling to scale back the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act, and Paul Ryan's budget proposal would cut Medicaid funding by 34 percent by 2022.

The Urban Institute estimates that states could have to drop between 14 million and 27 million people from Medicaid by 2021. In addition to losing insurance, children will also lose access to their pediatrician if the cuts go through.

Current Medicaid payments are set to rise to equal Medicare compensation by year's end. Without this increase, many physicians will no longer accept Medicaid patients and access will be further reduced.

While reducing the federal deficit is important, it should not be at the expense of children not having access to the health care they need.

Scott Krugman, Baltimore

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