The report from the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General says that while the Obama administration has boosted rates of participation for children getting regular wellness exams, dental checkups and vision and hearing tests, it needs to do more.
The report says that 63 percent of children on Medicaid received at least one medical screening in 2013, up from 56 percent in 2006, but most states are still falling short of the department’s 80 percent goal. Only Iowa and California met that participation rate goal last year.
In Kentucky, 57 percent of the 381,231 children covered by Medicaid who should have received at least one annual screening exam did so. Most states require at least one annual exam, and more frequent exams for infants. The reports shows that Kentucky’s rate is better than 20 other states and equal to the rates in North Carolina, Rhode Island and Florida.
Some experts say state officials bear most of the responsibility for the low rates because they run Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor, reports Phil Galewitz of Kaiser Health News. The OIG reports says the federal administration should be doing more to encourage states to address the problem.
“Child health advocates cite several factors for the low completion rates, including a shortage of doctors treating Medicaid patients, states’ low pay for providers and parents’ lack of awareness about the importance of the visits,” writes Galewitz.
Congress introduced the Medicaid benefit, known as the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment program in 1967. In Kentucky, the EPSDT benefit includes screenings and special services, according to the Cabinet for Health and Human Services. Preventive care, such as routine physicals or well-child check ups, is provided under the screenings program.
Last year, 514,298 children were eligible for Kentucky’s EPSDT, says the the cabinet’s annual participation report. Based on that number and eligibility periods, about 507,000 screenings were expected, but only 391,079 were, for a ratio of 83%. Additionally, the report says 236,830 children received dental services of any kind, with 208,783 receiving preventive services.
Some states require Medicaid health plans to educate members about the EPSDT benefit and what it covers. Others have implemented incentive plans that offer gift certificates for screenings. According to the National Academy for State Health Policy, Kentucky requires Medicaid managed-care organizations to provide an EPSDT coordinator to coordinate case-management services and continuity of care. Click here for more information about EPSDT screenings in Kentucky.