The Evidence Is In: Now 50 Years Old, Medicaid Improves Kids’ Health and Much More

by Wendy Lazarus

Today marks 50 years since Medicaid was signed into law and it is truly a day to celebrate. The program has had a long, successful history of bringing health care to children and families most in need. A combined federal-state effort to finance health programs and ensure timely care, Medicaid provides coverage for nearly 33 million children, or 37 percent of all children living in the United States. All of these children are able to get regular preventive care, from well-child visits and immunizations to dental, hearing, and vision care. And Medicaid provides services for children with special health care needs as well.

Now that longitudinal data is available, we can squarely say that the benefits of providing health care go far beyond the doctor’s office. In honor of the occasion, our partners at The Georgetown Center for Children and Families released a report detailing the growing body of research that shows the long-term benefits Medicaid has provided to children and the nation. Children with access to Medicaid are proven to have better health as adults, with one study showing a 26 percentage point decline in the incidence of high blood pressure in adulthood. Enrollment in the program is also associated with greater academic achievement and higher likelihood of graduating from high school and college. And recent studies suggest that giving low-income kids access to health coverage boosts their future earnings for decades, therefore increasing their future income tax contributions and helping generate an even bigger return on investment.

California is leading the way in giving families peace of mind, knowing that their children have health coverage that allows them to be healthy and productive. Thanks to recent action, starting no sooner than May 2016, California will cover the last remaining group of uninsured children—those who are undocumented. This will ensure more kids in the state than ever before can get a fair shot in life and will help reduce California’s still-unacceptable 7.4 percent children’s uninsurance rate in the state.

In California, and across the nation, we need to continue to both protect and expand Medicaid. The benefits to children’s health, education, and long-term prosperity could not be clearer. On the fiftieth anniversary, let’s commit to keeping Medicaid strong for future generations of children.

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