Medicaid Works for Texas Children, Let’s Make It Even Better

Recently we celebrated an important landmark in our nation’s history – the 50th Anniversary of two transformative U.S. healthcare initiatives, Medicare and Medicaid. Gone are the days when roughly half of American seniors were left without healthcare after working their entire lives to help build this country.  And gone are the days when many millions of children were left unprotected, without any affordable coverage option for preventive care or when they get sick. Among the groups benefiting from Medicaid coverage are Texans living with disabilities, elderly seniors in nursing homes, and pregnant women. But, most of all when we think Medicaid, we should think children. By far, children comprise the largest group of beneficiaries. Three in every four Medicaid enrollees are children. Thanks to Medicaid, nearly half of our state’s babies and children can get the vaccines and preventive screenings they need to grow up healthy, and the life-saving medical care and support they need when they get sick. Medicaid improves child health, provides vital support for children with disabilities, improves family financial security, and is generating long-term benefits for children.

Houstonian Destiny Gonzales is one such child. Destiny was born with Ehlers-Danlos (Type III) Syndrome, a genetic disorder causing weakness and hyper extensiveness of the joints, skin and connective tissues of the body. She used to wake up every morning feeling fragile and powerless, like she might never be like an ordinary child. Without the essential therapies and treatments she was able to receive through Medicaid, Destiny would not be able to walk, run, or even stand. But today, thanks to Medicaid, she can. In fact, she graduated at the top of her high school class and participates in activities she never dreamed possible.

Thanks to generations of bipartisan legislators, Medicaid has been a lifeline for Destiny and millions of other children and their families. Together with its younger cousin, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and more recently the ACA, Medicaid has helped drop the rate of uninsured children in America down to historic lows.

Groundbreaking research recently released by the Georgetown Center for Children and Families now confirms that Medicaid is an investment worth protecting. For the first time, using 50 years of program data, the report documents that adults who received Medicaid as children are healthier, with lower rates of obesity and high blood pressure, and fewer hospitalizations and ER visits over the course of their lives. They also performed better in school, were more likely to finish high school, attend college and graduate, and even earn more as adults.

Not only is Medicaid extremely effective, Medicaid is efficient and cost-effective. Per person, Medicaid costs less than private insurance, and the administrative costs are less than half those of private insurance.

Perhaps now more than ever, as we celebrate 50 years of improved health outcomes for children, Texas leaders should take the next step and improve health coverage for adults, to ensure that those caring for and raising up the next generation of Texans can get the care they need for themselves, too. Because, when Texas parents are covered, Texas children do even better.

Laura Guerra-Cardus, M.D. is associate director and Anat Kelman Shaw, M.P.A. is communications director of the Children’s Defense Fund–Texas.