The expansion of Medicaid benefits has been linked to a reduction in child neglect in states that expanded such health coverage for poor Americans under the Affordable Care Act, new research indicates.
A new study in JAMA Network Open suggests expanding Medicaid “may help prevent child neglect,” the research by Dr. Emily Brown of Seattle Children’s Hospital and coauthors shows. The research shows how expansion of Medicaid programs bolster “parental financial stability and access to mental health care,” study authors wrote.
The study’s authors looked at state data from 2010 through 2016 for 31 states and the District of Columbia that expanded Medicaid and the 19 states that hadn’t expanded Medicaid during that period. “Medicaid expansion was associated with a reduction in the reported child neglect rate (422 fewer cases of reported neglect per 100,000 children younger than 6),” Brown and her colleagues wrote in JAMA Network Open in their 13-page analysis, which was published Friday.
There are now 36 states plus the District of Columbia that have adopted Medicaid expansion with another 14 states that have not adopted it. Of those yet to expand, several are looking into it and campaigning for legislation or considering ballot initiatives to expand.
This research could be yet another reason remaining non-expansion states would want to expand, supporters of the ACA and Medicaid expansion say.
“Reports like this show that not only has Medicaid expansion made Americans healthier, it has also benefited millions of children,” said Brad Woodhouse, executive director of the group Protect Our Care. “Remember that when Republicans work to sabotage health care, they’re attacking our most vulnerable and putting young lives at risk.”
A companion commentary in JAMA Network Open described the prevention of “child maltreatment as an unexpected benefit of social policies,” noting that 3.5 million children, or 1 in 22, experienced an investigation from a child welfare agency following a report of suspected child maltreatment.
“As health care professionals, we must encourage parents of our patients to enroll in the social programs that support child well-being,” Dr. Kristine Campbell of the Center for Safe and Healthy Families at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah, wrote in a JAMA Network Open commentary. “As researchers, we must critically evaluate how new social policies influence rates of child maltreatment and report these findings as meaningful indicators of the impact of these policies, whether good or bad. Finally, as advocates for children and families, we must raise our voices in support of policies and programs that demonstrate effectiveness in reducing child maltreatment and improving child well-being in our communities.”