Print Friendly and PDFPrinter Friendly Version

Issue Brief
September 2018

Health Coverage Matters for Children: The Role of Medicaid in the Healthy Development of America's Children

Access to health care is crucial to children’s health and development. When children have health insurance, they are more likely to get the health care they need. For more than 40 percent of children in the U.S.—approximately 37 million children—Medicaid is the health insurance they rely on. Another 8.9 million children are enrolled in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), Medicaid’s sister program. The success of Medicaid and CHIP is largely responsible for the fact that 95 percent of children under 18 have some form of health coverage.

This issue brief explains the many ways Medicaid provides health coverage uniquely designed for children—coverage that addresses children’s health needs, and that helps them lead healthier lives, now and well into adulthood.

These are just a few of those ways—each is discussed in more detail in the brief:

  • Medicaid includes benefits that are designed for children and adolescents. Medicaid’s Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit ensures that children receive the pediatrician recommended health services they need.
  • Medicaid is a critical lifeline for children with special health care needs. Compared to private insurance, it offers more comprehensive coverage for the types of services and supplies these children need.
  • Medicaid is a driver of health equity. Together, Medicaid and CHIP have helped cut the number of uninsured children in half, with the greatest improvement in coverage rates for children of color.
  • Medicaid’s coverage of pregnant women supports healthy births and healthy babies. In 2010, Medicaid covered almost half of all births in the U.S.
  • Medicaid protects the health of children in the child welfare system. Medicaid is the dominant insurer for children in foster care.
  • Medicaid helps children get screenings and health services in school. It is a key source of financing for school-based services. There’s a well-established link between health and learning. Providing services in schools helps ensure that more children get connected to the care they need.

Medicaid helps ensure that low-income children can access the health care they need—health care their families could not otherwise afford.  It’s an investment in our future, an investment that’s threatened by state or federal efforts to cut or restructure the program.

Read the full issue brief.