Millions of low-income children are missing the free preventive exams and screenings guaranteed by Medicaid, and the Obama administration isn’t doing enough to fix the problem, according to a federal watchdog report.
The report, released Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG), says the administration has boosted rates of participation but must do more to ensure that children get the regular wellness exams, dental checkups, and vision and hearing tests. The report notes that 63 percent of children on Medicaid received at least one medical screening in 2013, up from 56 percent in 2006, but still far below the department’s 80 percent goal.
Only Iowa and California exceeded that standard last year, with 81 percent and 99.7 percent, respectively. Alaska and Ohio were below 40 percent. Five more states — Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon and Wyoming — were between 40 and 45 percent.
Child health advocates cite several factors for the low 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.
Children and taxpayers pay a steep price when children’s health problems are not caught early.