Research Update: The Links Between Medicaid and Schools in the Data and Research

We recently updated our state-by-state data on the share of children with Medicaid coverage by school district. Medicaid spent about $4 billion on school based health care services in 2015. There was wide variation by state: Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas each had at least $250,000,000 in Medicaid spending on school based health care services (see this appendix table for more state-by-state information). In addition to supporting schools financially, research from 2012 shows that Medicaid may also increase school readiness and lower absenteeism.

Preventing Chronic Disease’s School Readiness Among Children Insured by Medicaid, South Carolina

The researchers studied the relationship between receiving the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) recommended visits in the first two years of life and school readiness at the end of kindergarten for children in South Carolina. Children included in the data were born between 2000 and 2002, were consistently enrolled in Medicaid during the first two years of life, and were born to mothers insured through Medicaid.

What it finds

  • Children with the recommended number of visits in their first two years of life were more likely to be ready for school (71% compared to 64%).
  • The findings are similar for children with the minimum recommended number of visits in their first year of life or their second year of life.

Why it matters

  • The measure of school readiness for kindergarten in this study is used by researchers to predict success in school.
  • Medicaid’s EPSDT benefit may contribute to school readiness in South Carolina, and also potentially improve student success later on.

International Journal of Health Services’ Do Our Children Become Healthier and Wiser? A Study of the Effect of Medicaid Coverage on School Absenteeism

Researchers used Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS) data from 2001 through 2005 to examine whether children covered through Medicaid miss fewer days of school than uninsured children.

What it finds

  • Medicaid enrollment reduces school absences by increasing the number of physician visits and improving health.
  • Children are more likely to miss school if their physician’s office is more than one hour away.
  • Children are less likely to miss school if their parents report that they are in excellent health.

Why it matters

  • Enrolling children in Medicaid coverage may lead to fewer absences from school.
  • Students who are chronically absent from school are less likely to reach early learning milestones and more likely to fall behind their peers and drop out.
Karina Wagnerman
Karina Wagnerman is a Senior Health Policy Analyst at the Center for Children and Families

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