Medicaid Supports Student Success in School Districts Across the Country

By: Aubrianna Osorio, Emma Ford, Anne Dwyer, and Margaux Johnson-Green

Research consistently shows that Medicaid coverage in childhood has long-term benefits, including supporting student success. New data on the share of children with Medicaid/CHIP coverage are now available for more than 7,000 school districts nationwide and show how important these coverage programs are to students across the country.  In the median school district across the 50 states, Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico, more than 1 in 3 (35.8%) children were insured by Medicaid/CHIP.

Research consistently shows that Medicaid coverage in childhood has long-term benefits, including supporting student success. Medicaid coverage can help reduce the number of missed school days and dropout rates, boost high school graduation rates, and provide critical support for students’ mental health. In the 25 states that have expanded their school Medicaid programs, Medicaid can also help pay for health services for enrolled children, even if they don’t have an Individualized Education Program (IEP) (check our State Data Hub to see if your state has adopted this policy).

Using data from the 2018-2022 Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS), we found that the share of children with Medicaid/CHIP coverage ranged from about 3% of children in a few districts in Indiana, Texas, Illinois, and California, to more than 90% in some districts in Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, and California. The chart below shows this distribution across elementary, secondary, and unified districts (each dot represents one district; hover over them for more information!). If you want to hone in on districts in your state, you can also find those here.

Note that a district with a lower rate isn’t necessarily a higher-income district with few eligible children. Many children may be eligible but not enrolled in coverage—particularly in states with low participation rates. Surveys also tend to underestimate Medicaid/CHIP coverage compared to federal and state enrollment data.

This data predates the unwinding of the Medicaid continuous coverage provision. It’s important to note that fewer children may be enrolled now but the majority of those children who lost coverage likely remain eligible for Medicaid or CHIP. As the unwinding continues, schools can and should serve as a critical link to reconnect children with the health coverage they need to succeed.

[Editor's Note: Emma Ford, a Georgetown University McCourt School of Public Policy graduate intern, contributed to this CCF data project and is a co-author of the blog.]