Children and Medicaid

Medicaid is the huge cooperative state and federal program that pays for health care of children in lower income families. Just how low a family’s income needs to be to qualify varies from state to state. The official federal poverty line, when last I checked, was $18,400 for a family of four; some states allow a family to make a little more than that and still qualify.

Medicaid covers around a third of the children in America. One would then expect, all things being equal, that one fifth of the critically ill and injured children in our PICUs would be Medicaid patients. This is not so; about half of such children are enrolled in Medicaid. Why is that? Are poorer children over twice as likely to become critically ill as more affluent children? I don’t know the answer to that question. I do know that children on Medicaid often find it difficult to get regular medical care, meaning any chronic problems they have, like asthma and diabetes, often don’t get optimal management. This makes it more likely they will end up seeing me in the PICU when their problem gets out of control.

Whatever your political persuasion, I encourage you to find out more about this vital issue. You can find some excellent links elsewhere on this site to help you get started. The problem of how to fund health care for poor children won’t go away. It affects everyone who votes, pays taxes, and is concerned about children – in other words, all of us.


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