School Districts Gather in Baltimore to Fight Federal Cuts to School Health Programs

Baltimore, MD, May 03, 2006 --( Recent Federal action cuts Medicaid funding for school health programs and will prompt lay offs, lack of service to fragile children, and additional financial burdens on other publicly supported health care systems. School districts from across the country are gathering in Baltimore on May 5th to plan strategies to stop these cuts and receive briefings from Congressional staffers about legislation about to be introduced in support of their effort.

More than one hundred representatives from school districts across the country will meet in Baltimore on Friday, May 5th, to hear updates on federal cuts to school health programs and prepare strategies to defeat them. The conference, convened by LEAnet, an informal national coalition of school districts, will be held at the Baltimore City Public Schools Boardroom from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm.

School districts offer a wide range of health services, from screenings to free dental clinics to access to health professionals for children with learning disabilities. Traditionally, a portion of these programs are paid for with Federal Medicaid dollars. In January of this year, the President signed into law the Deficit Reduction Act (S.1932), which restricted some of this Federal funding. The proposed 2007 federal budget, which was released in February, contains additional cuts and would completely eliminate one major Medicaid funding program for schools.

Federal Medicaid dollars spent on school health programs represent less than one percent of the total Federal Medicaid budget, but the impact of the elimination of this program alone would cost schools hundreds of millions of dollars, and they would still be responsible under Federal law for providing the services.

Schools provide health screenings for all children and deliver a wide range of medical services to fragile children and those without means. These include programs like the free dental clinics operated by the Los Angeles Unified School District and several other districts. Other programs include the provision of special health services to learning-disabled children, which are delivered under a federal mandate. Whether or not there are Federal Medicaid dollars to help support these programs, as has been the case since 1989, the schools must deliver the services. This puts an immense financial burden on already weak school budgets.

Medicaid dollars spent in school health programs are also the only Federal health funds that are leveraged by a requirement that the local school district match the Federal dollars. This results in a dollar’s worth of services for a Federal expenditure of between seventy-five and fifty cents.

Conference attendees will hear from representatives of professional education organizations, Congressional staff, and other experts and will work together in an interactive session to develop and coordinate a national strategy to defeat the current and prospective cuts. The threat posed by the 2007 Federal budget proposal is not speculative, as the federal agency charged with management of Medicaid in the schools, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (an HHS agency), has already notified state Medicaid officials that it is moving forward to impose the cuts without Congressional action or formal rulemaking.

For additional information:
Greg Morris, Esq.

Greg Morris