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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Washington: Medicaid Expansion May Prevent Child Neglect, Study Suggests

More than 4 million reports of child maltreatment involving about 7.5 million children were made in 2017 to Child Protective Services. While much work has been done to reduce these high rates of child abuse and neglect in the United States, few programs have been consistently effective.

Now, new research from the University of Washington Schools of Public Health and Medicine suggests that expanding Medicaid may help prevent child neglect. After the expansion of Medicaid in 2014, mandated by the Affordable Care Act, there were 422 fewer cases of neglect per 100,000 children under the age of 6 reported each year in states that expanded Medicaid than in states that did not. The study was published June 14 in JAMA Network Open.

“Our study provides another example of a social policy, in this case Medicaid expansion, being associated with reduced child maltreatment, specifically child neglect rates,” said lead author Dr. Emily Brown, acting assistant professor of pediatrics at the UW School of Medicine, who conducted the study for her master’s thesis in the Department of Health Services at the UW School of Public Health.

Medicaid is the nation’s main public health insurance program for people with low income. In January 2014, 24 states and Washington, D.C., expanded their Medicaid programs to all U.S. residents with household incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level – about $16,245 for an individual in 2015. Seven other states expanded Medicaid a few years later.

Researchers analyzed data for the 31 Medicaid expansion states and compared it to data for the 19 states that opted out. They included data for 2010 through 2016 to capture trends in maltreatment rates for several years before and after Medicaid expansion.

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