3 Reasons Why Medicaid Matters in Schools

Written by NCLD policy team | 1 month ago

It’s likely you’ve heard of Medicaid – a large healthcare program that provides medical care to individuals and families with limited resources. But did you know that it also provides services to students in public schools across the country? Here are three important ways Medicaid works in schools.

1. Medicaid provides medical services to students who otherwise can’t afford them

Medicaid provides health services to students living in poverty who otherwise wouldn’t have access to doctors. Districts can receive reimbursement for the screening, diagnosis, and treatment of students’ health problems, often identifying and treating issues before they become more costly and challenging down the road. Medicaid funding allows school districts to conduct important early health screenings – such as screenings for vision, hearing, and mental health issues – for low-income students, and many of these students rely on schools to provide these services.

2. Medicaid provides support for students with disabilities

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), schools are obligated to provide medically-necessary services to students with disabilities. However, Congress has never funded IDEA at the levels it promised forty years ago, and schools are required to serve more students every year on fewer resources. Medicaid funding can help ease this burden on schools because schools can be reimbursed for providing those medically necessary services to students with disabilities.

3. Medicaid allows public schools to have healthcare professionals on staff

Medicaid funds can be used to pay the salaries of important healthcare professionals in schools such as nurses, psychologists, counselors, therapists, and others. Each time a student visits the nurse’s office or meets with a school counselor, they are reaping the benefits of Medicaid in schools. While these positions are funded through Medicaid, all students – not just low-income students – interact with and benefit from these professionals being in a school.

Medicaid matters for all students in all schools

To provide for early screening and special education-related medical services, public schools receive approximately $4 billion in reimbursements from Medicaid each year. Medicaid accounts for approximately 20% of an average school’s budget, and plays a critical role in how schools operate – not only serving low-income students but really benefitting all students. Children make up half of all Medicaid recipients in the United States, and many of them are receiving services in school. Therefore, to continue to serve students and families well, in and out of schools, states and the federal government must continue to invest in and adequately fund Medicaid each year.

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