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Report: Medicaid Helps Children's Future Health and Wealth

Medicaid celebrates 50th anniversary July 30, 2015. Courtesy: Connecticut Department of Health
Medicaid celebrates 50th anniversary July 30, 2015. Courtesy: Connecticut Department of Health
July 28, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY – A report released to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Medicaid has found the program improves a child's long-term health, education and economic success.

On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed legislation that established Medicare and Medicaid. This week's report from the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families shows that adults who benefited from Medicaid as children have lower rates of emergency room visits, hospitalizations and lower blood pressure.

According to Lincoln Nehring, president and CEO of Voices for Utah Children, healthy kids go on to have successful lives.

"Children that are getting their health care screenings are getting their needed care and do better in school," he says. "Success in school means that child is much more likely to go to college and get a better paying job when they're an adult."

The research also found that kids who had Medicaid are less likely drop out of high school, and more likely to graduate from college.

Utah is one of 20 states that has not expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but expansion appears imminent as the Legislature irons the details of a plan. Nehring says the state currently has one of the nation's lowest rates of Medicaid enrollment for children.

Report co-author Joan Alker, executive director with the Center for Children and Families, says the study also shows that kids who benefited from Medicaid have higher incomes later in life. She says it means they are less reliant on societal safety net programs and pay more in taxes – providing the government with a return on investment.

"The value of these studies is to actually look at the numbers," she says. "What all of these studies show is that Medicaid is providing an incredibly valuable service to kids, and that the taxpayers are getting a great return on their investment."

Today, Medicaid provides coverage to about 33 million children, which works out to 37 percent of all children in the U.S. The program also benefits millions of low-income seniors and Americans with disabilities.

Deborah Courson Smith/Troy Wilde, Public News Service - UT