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Monday, December 17, 2012

Budget Diagnosis Part 7: Healthy Children, Healthy Families and a Healthy Budget

This is the seventh in Budget Diagnosis, a series on the coming major decisions in Congress that could affect your health care. This series explains, simply, what advocates need to know, features special guests writing about different groups and populations that will be especially vulnerable, and provides you with updates from D.C. This post is a guest blog by Joan Alker from Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. Check out our first six posts here.

As policymakers scramble to avoid automatic spending cuts and the expiration of tax cuts on January 1, 2013, it is important to underscore that a healthy budget agreement must be achieved without jeopardizing the health and well-being of children and families.

The cost-effective Medicaid health coverage program has helped bring down the uninsured rate for children to its lowest levels on record – 7.5% -- in the past few years.  That success is even more striking given that childhood poverty and adult uninsured rates jumped sharply during the same time frame. Medicaid is a public program that works well and is doing its job.  Why “fix” something that isn’t broken?

Consider these facts about how vital Medicaid is to children and families: 

  • By covering over 30 million children, Medicaid gives peace of mind to families across the country.  Medicaid was there during the recent recession to step in and cover children as families lost their jobs and employer-based coverage. 
  • Medicaid is cost effective and allows more people to be covered at a lower cost than the private market. In fact Medicaid works by supporting our system of private insurance – covering those children and families for whom private insurance is not affordable or, in the case of children with chronic conditions or disabilities, not comprehensive enough.
  • Medicaid’s kids benefits package – EPSDT – is the gold standard for kids according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. EPSDT emphasizes prevention and wellness along with appropriate coverage for children with special health care needs. Research is clear that giving kids Medicaid coverage provides them with access to needed health care services – in most instances at the same level that kids with private insurance are receiving.

Cutting Medicaid would simply shift costs to states, local governments, hospitals and other providers, and private insurance premiums. Children’s health care needs will not go away if our country ignores them. And Medicaid has a proven track record of success in meeting children’s health care needs.

Joan Alker is the Co-Executive Director of Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. For more information, visit,