Medicaid Expansion Promotes Children’s Development and Family Success by Treating Maternal Depression

This paper examines one important reason why access to Medicaid for poor adults is crucial for children’s healthy development. Other research has documented the reasons why Medicaid coverage matters so much for uninsured adults, both parents and non-parents: It reduces the rate of uninsurance, allows them to get treatment for medical and mental health problems, and stabilizes family finances.

But it can be less obvious why adults’ coverage should matter for children, who were not targeted by the Medicaid eligibility expansions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Yet adults’ coverage matters crucially for children, because children’s development depends on whether the caring adults in their lives—particularly their parents— are themselves healthy emotionally and physically. This paper addresses one particularly well-studied example of this close relationship between parents’ health and children’s development: maternal depression. Specifically, it summarizes the evidence that a mother’s untreated depression can hinder children’s healthy development; that safe and effective treatments exist, yet low-income mothers too often don’t get treatment; and that Medicaid coverage could change that.

For more from the authors, read Joan and Olivia’s blog.