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Schools increasingly relying on Medicaid funds

Medicaid, created in 1965 to provide health insurance to the poor, now functions as a lifeline for millions of American students, as well as hundreds of school districts across the country (Source: “How Medicaid Became A Go-To Funder For Schools,” Kaiser Health News, March 9, 2018).

The public insurance program has evolved so that it now finances myriad education-related services, including transportation for kids with disabilities, school clinics and counseling for children from turbulent backgrounds. Medicaid funds are now woven into the nation’s educational system.

But as Congress seeks to cut federal health spending, the use of Medicaid dollars in schools could come under new scrutiny.

Medicaid spends only $4 billion of its $400 billion annual budget in schools — a “very small portion of the pie,” said Jessica Schubel, a senior policy analyst at the bipartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. But for the school districts providing an array of services that have quietly become vital to students and families, losing this funding source would be immense, she said, “a big deal.”