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Medicaid Helps Idaho's Rural Children Most

Nearly 40 percent of children in rural Idaho are enrolled in Medicaid. (Honza Soukup/Flickr)
Nearly 40 percent of children in rural Idaho are enrolled in Medicaid. (Honza Soukup/Flickr)
June 8, 2017

BOISE, Idaho – A new report shows Medicaid is critical for providing rural children in Idaho and across the country access to the care they need to stay healthy.

The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families finds 39 percent of children in rural parts of the Gem State are enrolled in Medicaid, compared with 35 percent in metro areas.

Between 2009 and 2015, Medicaid also helped reduce the rate of uninsured children in small town Idaho by 5 percent.

Christine Tiddens, a member of the health care advocacy group Close the Gap Idaho, says the program is vitally important to rural Idahoans.

"We know that Medicaid's a lifeline that really runs through rural parts of our state, and it ensures that the most vulnerable among us – so our children, our seniors, individuals with disabilities – really get the care that they need," she states.

Tiddens adds 73 percent of Medicaid enrollees in Idaho are children.

The number of children on Medicaid rose by seven percentage points from 2009 to 2015 in the state.

President Donald Trump's proposed budget and the U.S. House health care plan could change that, slashing more than a trillion dollars from Medicaid over the next decade.

Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says the proposed cuts to Medicaid would have an outsized impact on rural communities, many of which are still struggling economically from the recession.

"Children and families living in small towns and rural areas risk losing access to health care and their protection from rising health care costs as Medicaid funding is cut, as congressional leaders are currently thinking about," she stresses.

Besides providing access to medical care, Alker says Medicaid also protects families from medical debt and bankruptcy.

And she notes the program shores up local economic security by helping rural health centers and hospitals keep their doors open.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID