While there has been considerable criticism surrounding the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), particularly from members of the GOP, child advocates applauded the bill’s passage in February 2009 because it included important measures to protect our children’s health and well-being during our nation’s greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Naysayers aside, a report released this week by the Kaiser Family Foundation and the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families cites ARRA funding as the primary reason why nearly all states appeared to have maintained or improved health coverage for low-income children and families on Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 2010. The study’s findings show that despite the tough economic times,13 states were able to increase Medicaid eligibility for various groups (notably pregnant women and lawfully-residing immigrant children) and 14 states worked to improve their enrollment and renewal procedures, mostly to make it easier for parents to enroll their children into coverage.

Now, to put this research in perspective, The Los Angeles Times noted that improvements in Medicaid and CHIP meant that more than 90% of children had health coverage in 2010. Seeing these figures at a time when more than one in ten children has an unemployed parent is certainly encouraging. Yet, while these programs are providing vital support for families who have been impacted by the economic crisis, the ARRA funding that has been helping to support state Medicaid programs is scheduled to end in June. The expiration of ARRA combined with recession-strained state budgets and massive cuts expected for a slew of federal discretionary programs puts the future of funding for Medicaid and CHIP at risk. Only two states, Arizona and New Jersey, rolled back their Medicaid programs in 2010, but there may be more of that (or worse) to come with a lack of federal dollars (as Medicaid is a jointly state and federally funded insurance program). Just this week both Governor Jerry Brown of California and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo proposed billion dollar cuts to their state Medicaid programs.

The Kaiser/Georgetown report also signaled a need for states to start preparing for implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), most specifically on the technological front, creating online enrollment processes. However, ACA implementation and potential state Medicaid cuts go hand in hand. If states cut Medicaid budgets now, not only will more children and families go uninsured when they need it most, but the full benefits of ACA may not be realized, including (and almost ironically) billions of budget savings to states.

For more information on Medicaid and state health care implementation: