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New Medicaid Research Shows Long-Term Benefits for Pennsylvania Kids

GRAPHIC: Medicaid is 50 years old, and many are praising its impact on Pennsylvania children. Graphic courtesy Center on Budget Policies and Priorities.
GRAPHIC: Medicaid is 50 years old, and many are praising its impact on Pennsylvania children. Graphic courtesy Center on Budget Policies and Priorities.
July 28, 2015

HARRISBURG, Pa. – Medicaid turns 50 years old this week, and the impact it's had on the lives of children in Pennsylvania and around the nation is being praised, both by advocates and academics.

Nearly half of Pennsylvania's children receive services though the healthcare program, created primarily for poor families and those with disabilities.

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

"A dramatically lower incidence of high blood pressure," she says. "Also, kids had higher rates of graduating from college, less dropping out of high school and a greater chance of having higher incomes than their parents."

States receive federal funding under Medicaid and decide how to best use it, within certain guidelines. Critics in Congress and the Legislature have tried to limit Medicaid, or reduce its funding as a cost-cutting measure.

Michael Race with the Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children says some of the good from the program is "all but invisible." He says parents of children receiving Medicaid benefits are more productive and miss less work, because with healthier children parents worry less and have to stay home with a sick child less often. He adds that Pennsylvania kids also enjoy the same kind of long-term benefits described in the Georgetown study.

"That affects the overall well-being of that child in ways far beyond a doctor's office," says Race. "If you have a child who is physically and emotionally healthy, you've basically got the framework for a good, productive, high-quality life."

After five decades, children's advocates say Medicaid has been such a cornerstone for Pennsylvania families it's hard to imagine not having it. While it won't change coverage requirements for children, Pennsylvania did take advantage of an option under the Affordable Care Act to expand Medicaid to cover working poor families up to one-and-one-third times the poverty rate.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - PA