Medicaid at 50: A look at the long-term benefits in Arkansas

This month we celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the most effective programs our country has in place: Medicaid. Over the years, Medicaid has improved the health and saved the lives of millions of Americans. In fact, in 2014 alone, 80 million Americans who would have otherwise been uninsured were able to access health coverage through Medicaid.

Medicaid is not only essential for low-income adults to receive coverage, it’s also vital for the livelihood of children as well. Providing kids access to health insurance benefits them for the rest of their lives. According to the Congressional Budget Office, Medicaid serves 31 million children in any given month – that’s almost the entire population of California. We know that kids with access to high-quality health coverage face fewer unnecessary trips to the ER, are more likely to do better in school and earn more money later in life.

A new report by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families examines the long-term benefit of the Medicaid program for children. The report highlights the top three benefits:

  • A growing body of research provides evidence that children with Medicaid coverage become healthier adults.
  • Medicaid eligibility expansions for children also lead to greater academic achievements.
  • Children with access to Medicaid had greater economic success as adults.

See the full report here.

So what does this all mean for Arkansas? The ARKids First program is funded with Medicaid and CHIP dollars, which provides a steady source of health coverage for many Arkansas children. In the not so distance past, one out of four children in Arkansas were uninsured. ARKids has been an important vehicle for getting kids covered and helped to reduce the number of uninsured kids to an all-time low of six percent! Racing Toward the Finish Line: Kids Health Coverage in 2015, highlights the significant gains we’ve made covering children. While we are very proud of the huge success of ARKids, the report also identifies opportunities to expand coverage to children and families that are still left out.

The Medicaid program is a sound investment into children’s future. It has provided many children and families with the health care they need for the past 50 years, but there is still more to be done. Kids need to continue to be an important part of both state and federal budgets, and we need to continue to advocate for programs like CHIP that provide millions of kids with high quality health coverage. We must continue to guarantee that all kids have access to the health coverage they need to succeed.