The Federal Government has an excellent record for bipartisan support of students with special needs and funding for medical services through the School Medicaid and SCHIP programs

For the last six months, there has been a lot of speculation on the future of the Federal Government’s role in healthcare.  Plans have been proposed, withdrawn, voted upon, failed to pass, and passed.  The end result right now is that there is no clear direction on where things will eventually end up.

That uncertainty is causing anxiety throughout the country.  For those involved with students with special needs, there is a real uncertainty and anxiety about continued funding through the various state School Medicaid programs.

There are many articles and interviews around the country with people who are reacting to the high-level discussions of plans.  But there is nothing set in stone yet.  Even if currently proposed bills pass and are signed into law, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be additional legislation introduced to address any gaps – and that could include School Medicaid programs.

It’s not time to panic.  It’s not time to scream “Fire!”.  But it is time to work with elected officials and paint the picture for them of the impact on School Medicaid of any of the proposed healthcare changes.  

It’s also a good idea to share the history of bipartisan support for these programs, funding, and the students that they help.  Here’s a quick timeline of some signature milestones regarding students with special needs and School Medicaid funding initiatives.  Regardless of the party in the White House or controlling either house of Congress, special education legislation and School Medicaid funding programs have received widespread bipartisan support for almost 30 years.

Year Legislation
 1975 PL 94-142; Education for All Handicapped Children Act
This act, signed into law by President Ford, received bipartisan support (passing the House with a vote of 404-7 and the Senate 87-7).  It required public schools to provide services to students who required special education services and established Federal funding for those services
1988 HR 2470; Medicare Catastrophic Coverage Act of 1988
This act was signed into law by President Reagan.  It contained many provisions including one that allowed public school districts to seek reimbursement for special education services provided to Medicaid-eligible students.  It received full bipartisan support in Congress (the House vote was 328-72; the Senate vote was 86-11).
 1990 PL 101-476; Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
This act was signed into law by President George H.W. Bush.  It updated and reauthorized the federal special education law PL 94-142 passed in 1975.  The legislation passed both the House and Senate with only a voice-vote.
 1997 HR 2015; Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (SCHIP)
This act, signed into law by President Clinton, established the State Children's Health Insurance Program to provide insurance to children whose parents did not qualify for Medicaid but also could not afford private insurance.  Again, this program received bipartisan support, being sponsored by Democratic Senator Ted Kennedy and Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.  The vote in Congress was 346-85 in the House and 85-15 in the Senate.
 1997 HR5; Individuals with Disabilities Education Act Amendments of 1997
This act, signed into law by President Clinton, reauthorized the IDEA and for the first time mentioned Medicaid reimbursement.  The Congress voted overwhelmingly for this legislation on a bipartisan basis.  The vote in the House was 420-3 and the vote in the Senate was 98-1.
 2004 HR 1350; Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004
This act, signed into law by President George W. Bush, reauthorized the IDEA and again included language about Medicaid reimbursement to public school agencies for delivering related medical services to students receiving special needs services.  This legislation again received overwhelming bipartisan support in the Congress with the House vote being 397-3 and the Senate vote 95-3.
 2007 PL 110-173 (S 2499); Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Extension Act of 2007
This act, signed by President George W. Bush, reauthorized the SCHIP insurance program for children.  The vote in the House was 411-3 and the Senate voted unanimously for passage.
 2009 HR 2; Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009
This act, signed by President Obama, reauthorized the SCHIP insurance program for children.  The vote in the House was 290-135 and in the Senate 66-32.
 2015 HR 2; Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015
This act, signed by President Obama, reauthorized the SCHIP insurance program for children.  The vote in the House was 392-37 and in the Senate 92-8.

For the last 29 years, regardless of the resident of the White House and regardless of the majority party in the houses of the US Congress, funding through the School Medicaid and CHIP programs has been consistent.  In fact, when states appeared to potentially run out of SCHIP funding (SCHIP is a block grant program), Congress acted to add additional funds.

It’s important for our elected leaders to understand the commitment that they have made to our students with special needs.  Throughout the years, regardless of political party, the US Congress and the Presidents have recognized the extra resources that our special needs students require and provided a small but important funding stream through the School Medicaid program.
 
Remind your elected leaders of that commitment and how important it is to our students and to their future success.


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