Expand Medicaid to combat child neglect

August 15, 2019

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 4.1 million reports of children maltreatment were reported in 2016. A new study suggests that expanding Medicaid could help reduce the number.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, 4.1 million reports of children maltreatment were reported in 2016. Roughly 75% of the reports involved child neglect and 18% of the reports were for physical abuse. A new study published in JAMA Network Open suggests that expanding Medicaid could help reduce those numbers.

Researchers used state-level National Child Abuse and Neglect Data Systems (NCANDS) data from January 1, 2010, through December 31, 2016. All cases of physical abuse and neglect in children aged younger than 6 years that were referred to state-level Child Protective Services and screened for further intervention were included in the study. Reports that involved only documented sexual or emotional abuse were not included.

The data include reports from 31 states and the District of Columbia, which had expanded Medicaid, and 19 states that did not expand Medicaid during the study period. There were baseline neglect counts of 646,463 in the group with Medicaid expansion and 388,265 in the group that had not expanded Medicaid. The researchers found that after expanding Medicaid, there were 422 fewer cases per 100,000 children aged younger than 6 years reported each year, after adjusting for confounders. No links were found between Medicaid coverage and Medicaid eligibility criteria and physical abuse or neglect rates.

The researchers concluded that Medicaid expansion was linked to reducing the reported rate of child neglect. They did not see a reduction in the physical abuse rate.