Medicaid & Schools
Since 1988, schools and districts have been eligible to receive Medicaid payments for medical expenses they incur for providing services to students with disabilities under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, or IDEA, and for providing services such as health screenings, vaccinations, and behavioral health services to Medicaid-eligible children through Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment, or EPSDT. In many cases, this includes services covered by Medicaid, such as speech therapy and occupational therapy.
Although these services amount to only 1 percent of Medicaid’s annual budget, they are a significant portion of federal funding for schools, providing approximately $3 billion each year in federal funds. As a point of comparison, total federal funding for IDEA is $13 billion. Cuts to Medicaid would limit cash-strapped schools in their ability to meet the needs of special education students.
Medicaid Cuts and Tennessee’s Budget
Over 20¢ of every dollar in TN’s state budget is federal Medicaid funding. Proposed federal Medicaid cuts in the American Health Care Act (AHCA) of $500 million per year, increasing in future years, are too big to handle with TennCare cuts alone.
Without the federal oversight that comes with federal Medicaid spending, Tennessee would be left to its own devices to handle the funding cuts. The result could be raising taxes to make up the shortfall, cutting services to poor and special needs students, or taking money from other programs in the state’s budget. ALL aspects of the state budget, including K-12 and higher education, could sustain cuts.
Medicaid Cuts and Tennessee’s Schools
Although Tennessee’s Medicaid program is a small percentage of federal Medicaid spending, an estimated $500 million dollar cut to our program would trickle down, jeopardizing the $51 million dollars that schools receive. According to a recent survey of nearly 1,000 school and district leaders from 42 states, 68 percent of respondents use these Medicaid reimbursements to pay for the salaries of school-based health professionals, including school nurses, school counselors and psychologists, school-based physical therapists, and speech-language pathologists. The drastic cuts to Medicaid included in the AHCA could mean major cuts to these critical personnel and would ultimately hurt students of all income levels and abilities.
What can you do?
Meet with our senators. Senators Alexander and Corker are key to passage of the AHCA. Let them know that you are worried about the effects of the AHCA on Tennessee’s schools through in-person meetings, phone calls, emails or handwritten letters. If you would like more information or help with contacting our Senators, please visit https://www.tnjustice.org/childrens-health/