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Medicaid at 50: New Research Shows Long-Term Benefits for West Virginia Kids

Medicaid is fifty years old, and research shows its positive effects on West Virginia children. Photo courtesy National Institutes of Health.
Medicaid is fifty years old, and research shows its positive effects on West Virginia children. Photo courtesy National Institutes of Health.
July 28, 2015

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Medicaid is 50 years old this week, and the impact it's had on the lives of children is being praised, both by advocates and academics.

Renate Pore, director of health care policy for West Virginians for Affordable Healthcare, says 60 percent of the pregnancy care and births in the state are covered by Medicaid. The program covers about half of West Virginia children.

Pore says the effects are "huge," in part because problems before or at birth can last a lifetime.

"For pregnant women and for children, it has just been an enormous program for West Virginia," she says. "Not only the services themselves, but the fact that they don't have to worry."

Pore says it would be hard to even imagine the state's healthcare system without the program, although critics have tried to limit Medicaid or reduce its funding as a cost-cutting measure.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, is part of a coalition that researched how kids helped by Medicaid do later in life. She says it makes a profound difference in several ways.

"Some studies are now finding that children who received Medicaid actually pay more taxes as adults and use fewer government subsidies," she says. "The government is getting a great return on investment by providing kids with Medicaid."

States receive federal funding under Medicaid and decide how to best use it, within certain guidelines. The healthcare program was created primarily for poor families and those with disabilities.

West Virginia took advantage of an option under the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid to cover working poor families making incomes of up to one-and-one-third times the federal poverty rate.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV