Strengthening Medicaid to Support Healthy Students

Healthy Schools Campaign, a Modern Medicaid Alliance partner, has made it their mission to ensure that schools are equipped to provide students with healthy environments, nutritious food, health services, and opportunities for physical activity. 

Medicaid plays an essential role in bringing that mission to life, covering crucial health services for children with special needs, as well as health services that parents rely on for all children, such as vision and dental screenings. Schools can also help enroll eligible children in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and connect them to health care providers.  

In total, Medicaid and CHIP provide essential health care coverage for over 37 million children, and nearly 75% of low-income children are covered through Medicaid, leading to better health and education outcomes. 

To support and enhance Medicaid’s impact on students, the Healthy Schools Campaign collaborated with Trust for America’s Health and the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to establish the Healthy Students, Promising Futures Learning Collaborative (HSPF) in 2016. Healthy Schools Campaign now leads HSPF. 

The HSPF brings together state-based teams committed to increasing access to school-based Medicaid services and promoting safe and supportive school environments. 

The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) ensures that children with disabilities have access to education and health services, as outlined in their individualized education plan (IEP). For a child covered by both IDEA and Medicaid, Medicaid covers many of these important services, such as physical and speech therapy. Expanding the ability of schools to provide Medicaid services in the school setting is a critical opportunity to provide students with healthier environments and improve health outcomes. 

In addition, strengthening collaboration between Medicaid managed care organizations and school districts is an important opportunity to expand access to care in schools and leverage the full potential school health services present to support Medicaid managed care organizations in meeting their quality metrics. 

HSPF state teams are made up of representatives from state education agencies, state Medicaid agencies, and local school districts. Participating state teams receive vital support from HSPF, including strategic advice, training and technical assistance, and opportunities for peer learning. HSPF also hosts annual meetings to provide new content and policy updates and to facilitate cross-state learning and sharing between teams. 

Since 2016, the HSPF has grown rapidly and expanded its footprint from 10 to 15 states, with 4 additional states considering forming teams. When the program began, only 2 states in the nation had expanded their school Medicaid programs to non-IEP services; as of June 2021, 14 states have expanded their programs and of those, 8 have HSPF state teams and participate in the HSPF learning collaborative. 

HSPF’s technical assistance and unique peer learning structure have empowered state teams to successfully identify and overcome barriers to cooperation across state agencies and implement new federal flexibilities in their states, including: 

  • Formation of new, cross-sector partnerships among state agencies, local school districts, and state and local partner organizations; 
  • Expansion of Medicaid services in schools for all Medicaid-eligible students; and, 
  • Development of state-level guidance on key issues, such as data sharing and coordination with Medicaid managed care organizations. 

27 national organizations now participate in the learning collaborative through sharing information with their networks and providing content expertise, including numerous Modern Medicaid Alliance partners: 

Medicaid has a tremendous positive impact on children’s health and wellness. Through collaborations such as the Healthy Students, Promising Futures Learning Collaborative, the Healthy Schools Campaign ensures the program is there for more students who need it.