RELEASE: House Repeal Bill Would Do Serious Harm to Children with Disabilities

Washington, D.C. — A new issue brief from the Center for American Progress details the substantial harm that cuts to Medicaid, such as the federal funding caps in the House health care bill, would have on children with disabilities who rely on the Medicaid program to help them learn and grow in their homes and communities. The impact could include a loss of prescription medication, as well as cuts to special education programs in schools, speech and physical therapy, screenings, home-based services, and diagnostic screenings to identify and address disabilities and developmental delays early.

“Because children with disabilities and their families are more likely to live in low-income households, cuts to federal funding for Medicaid would put kids with disabilities and their families at serious risk. They deserve health care coverage that helps them grow up healthy, meet their developmental milestones, and thrive in their schools and communities. We can’t afford to harm the very people this program is supposed to help,” said Katie Hamm, Vice President of Early Childhood Policy at CAP.

More than half of all children with disabilities or other special health care needs rely on public insurance coverage for a wide range of services and supports. This makes them more vulnerable to cost increases from the federal funding caps in the latest version of the House Republicans’ health care repeal effort. Many of the resources on which families of children with disabilities rely—such as those that pay for costly prescription medication and habilitative therapies—are not required by the federal government and, therefore, could be among the first to go under budgetary pressures.

While the services covered by Medicaid reimbursement, as well as the individuals eligible for services, can vary widely from state to state, they generally include early and periodic screening, diagnostic, and treatment, or EPSDT; home- and community-based services, for which there are already long waiting lists nationwide; prescription drugs; and speech, occupational, and physical therapy. In addition, all 50 states and the District of Columbia rely on Medicaid dollars to source early intervention systems and pay for special education staffing, all of which could be at risk.

The CAP brief also details the challenges that families face, including working fewer hours and earning less income due to their child’s increased caregiving needs. Nationally, 25 percent of parents of children with special health care needs report having to cut back on their hours or stop working altogether.

Click here to read “Cuts to Medicaid Would Harm Young Children with Disabilities” by Rebecca Ullrich.

For more information on this topic or to speak to an expert, contact Devon Kearns at dkearns@americanprogress.org or 202.641.6290.