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February 9, 2016

The Role of Medicaid in the Quest for Grade-Level Reading

If you have been following the reporting of Maggie Clark and her team on the Medicaid crisis in Florida in the Herald-Tribune, you know that Florida ranks 50th in the country in per-child spending on Medicaid. Higher-performing states spend three times as much.

You have read the heart-wrenching stories of children who wait weeks to see a doctor even though they have serious medical issues. You learned about children whose dental care is so poor—most likely non-existent—that they can no longer eat solid food. Children in Florida, including those in Sarasota and Manatee counties, are missing well baby visits, developmental screenings, vision and hearing screenings, preventive dental care, and many more of the healthcare-related visits that lead to healthy children who are ready to learn.

Health is a key component of the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading nationally and locally through the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading. Here is why: Healthy development from birth significantly impacts a child’s ability to learn and to become a proficient reader. Children who are proficient readers are on a path to success in all aspects of life while the opposite is also tragically true.

The key health factors identified by the Campaign include:

(1) Prenatal care and infant development – Medicaid mothers receive less prenatal care and children covered by Medicaid in our region receive fewer well-baby visits.

(2) Comprehensive screenings (including vision and hearing tests), follow-up, and early intervention – Children enrolled in Medicaid often have more need for these screenings and interventions but are, sadly, the children least likely to get them due to underfunded managed care Medicaid programs.

(3) Oral health – Preventive and follow-up dental care for Medicaid enrollees just isn’t available in our region.

(4) Asthma management – This is a key factor in school attendance. The Herald-Tribune series features harrowing stories about babies and young children with asthma waiting weeks to see a physician.

As you continue to follow the Herald-Tribune’s extensive and in-depth coverage of the Medicaid crisis, think beyond the healthcare dangers and recognize that poor preventive efforts, limited screenings, and hard-to-find medical and dental care also lead to poor performance in school, inability to read at grade-level, and a life that begins on a path to decreased opportunity in all areas.

photo credit: The Touch of Hands via photopin (license)

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