Sunday, February 12, 2017

Medicaid Cuts a "Prescription to Hurt the Neediest Kids"

Proposed cuts to Medicaid will significantly harm students with disabilities, according to a national survey of school superintendents. A plan that Republican leaders are pushing would reduce Medicaid spending by 25 percent by distributing Medicaid funding through a block grant or a per-capita cap, shifting costs to states. It's estimated that these cuts would actually be 30 to 35 percent when combined with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

Under Medicaid, schools are eligible to receive funding for medically necessary services for students under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). This revenue helps cover the costs of nurses, therapists, and others that provide services for children with disabilities and health services for students living in poverty.

School leaders surveyed by AASA, the School Superintendents Association, said a 30 percent cut to Medicaid would disproportionately affect children with disabilities. Survey respondents (school superintendents and assistant superintendents, school business officials, and special education directors) anticipate the following consequences:

  • Schools would need to reduce services and support for students with disabilities.
  • Schools would be less able to provide qualified therapists (physical, occupational, and speech).
  • Many schools will struggle to comply with the requirements of the IDEA, which is already "woefully underfunded."
  • Health services for children with chronic conditions would be reduced.
  • The inability of families to access regular check-ins, immunizations, and screenings for vision, dental, and hearing would increase absenteeism and interfere with their children's ability to learn. 

Read the report.

It's important to note that cuts to Medicaid would impact all children, not just those who are low-income or in special education. As one respondent said, "Without Medicaid funds, we would be forced to cut services to the majority of our students to make up for the special education mandates, which are mostly underfunded or not funded at all." That would mean larger class sizes, tighter budgets for salaries and programs, and cuts to important support like guidance counselors and mental health services. It would also be difficult to attract and retain high-quality educators and administrators.

The report concludes:
"School leaders are deeply concerned by the impact a block grant would have on districts’ ability to deliver critical special education supports and health services to students. We urge mem- bers of Congress to weigh how children will be impacted by a Medicaid block grant and to reach out to school leaders for speci c insights about the importance of their school-based Medicaid programs for students."

Read "School District Chiefs: Proposed Medicaid Changes Would Hurt Poor Children and Students with Disabilities" from the Washington Post.

Read the report, "Cutting Medicaid: A Prescription to Hurt the Neediest Kids."

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