We all want our children to grow up happy and healthy, and to have a chance to succeed. Moms and dads want to attend their kids’ high school and college graduations, and to later cheer on their entry into exciting new careers. Making sure that children have access to the quality health care they need builds a foundation to be successful in school and their future jobs. That is why Medicaid in Nebraska is so vital to our state’s future. About one in three children in Nebraska get their healthcare through the Medicaid program. And in 2011, 85% of the kids eligible for Medicaid or its expansion for kids under 18, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), were covered. Those numbers add up to a lot of healthy, happy kids.
Part of the reason why Medicaid is good for our state’s kids is its comprehensive benefit program for children, called Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT). This benefit program covers regular screenings and treatment, and also includes immunizations, dental, vision, and hearing coverage. In fact, EPSDT covers all vaccines recommended by the CDC; in comparison, private insurers are not legally required to cover all vaccines. And in general, a broader range of pediatric benefits may be available under CHIP and Medicaid’s EPSDT than under private insurance found in a state’s healthcare marketplace.
Better yet, Nebraska children are given a healthy jump start in life through the health care they receive from Medicaid. Research shows that the children of pregnant moms enrolled in Medicaid are subject to lower rates of obesity and hospitalizations for some diseases. School-age kids who have access to health care are more likely to graduate from high school and college. Conversely, the 19% of public high school students who do not graduate on time are more likely to have health issues that hinder them, including dental and medical problems that could be addressed if covered by Medicaid or CHIP. Finally, children covered by Medicaid are more likely to have higher incomes and to earn more than their parents. This suggests that these little Nebraskans will grow up and strengthen our state’s economy.
Medicaid is also a more cost-effective program for kids. In 2005, it cost $338 less to enroll a child in Medicaid than it did to enroll them in private health insurance. Furthermore, if a family of four with poverty-level income were to switch from Medicaid coverage to a private insurer, they would have to spend $2,700 more towards out-of-pocket medical expenses, as found in a recent report. While some groups look to policies that would help families with lower incomes to pay for basic private health insurance, this report finds that higher out-of-pocket expenses would keep families and children from getting the health care they need.
Medicaid sets up Nebraska’s children for healthy and successful lives, and is a great deal for families and our state. Let’s stand by Medicaid and support better futures for our children.