Medicaid: A Smart Investment in Children

As readers of Say Ahhh! know, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provide health coverage to more than one-third of the children in the United States and the vast majority of these children are covered through Medicaid. Our new report, Medicaid is a Smart Investment in Children, reviews the research on the long-term benefits of Medicaid coverage for children. The research shows that access to Medicaid in childhood leads to longer, healthier lives, a better chance to finish high school and college, and more prosperous futures for our children.

  1. Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women and children improves health throughout their lives, from prenatal development to adolescence to adulthood. When pregnant women have access to Medicaid, there are better health outcomes for their children during adulthood, including reduced rates of obesity and hospitalizations and improvements in oral health. Researchers have also found that Medicaid exposure during early childhood leads to improvements in overall health during adulthood, as measured by a composite health index that examines the prevalence of high blood pressure, diabetes after age 18, heart disease or heart attack, and obesity. Studies suggest that, in the long-run, access to childhood Medicaid reduces mortality.
  2. Medicaid eligibility leads to improvements in educational outcomes at the elementary, high school and college levels. One study found that increases in Medicaid/CHIP eligibility at birth led to improvements in reading test scores in the 4th and 8th grades. Another study found that increases in childhood Medicaid eligibility decreased high school dropout and increased college attendance and completion.
  3. Childhood Medicaid protects the whole family from financial hardship by decreasing the probability of debt and bankruptcy for families. In 2010, Medicaid lifted an estimated 2.6 million to 3.4 million individuals out of poverty. Medicaid effectively shields many children from poverty, reducing their exposure to adverse childhood experiences that can influence their health in later life.
  4. Childhood Medicaid produces economic benefits in adulthood, including increased employment, higher tax payments, and returns on public investment in Medicaid. One study found that each additional year of Medicaid eligibility from birth to age 18 increased cumulative tax payments by $186 and reduced cumulative Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) receipts by $75.

This growing body of research underscores the importance of Medicaid’s role as a pillar of health coverage for children and financial protection for families. For more than 50 years, Medicaid has worked for children, improving their health, education and economic outcomes.

Note: Please see report for citations on research.

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