The American Health Care Act or “Trumpcare” could end up targeting schools directly because the proposed cuts to Medicaid will greatly affect school-age children as well as school resources.
The AHCA, as currently written, decreases the amount of money given to schools to pay for speech therapy, occupational therapy, and medical equipment. Schools are required to have these special education services but Congress only partially pays for them as it is. As Claire Suggs, with the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute observes, “The cost shifts but doesn’t go away.”
Suggs also noted, “Georgia’s districts now lack the resources to fill this gap. School districts already face a financial squeeze after years of state underfunding and cost shifting.”
Georgia Public Schools are already underfunded and school districts are already struggling to meet the needs of all students, especially students living in poverty. So the added strain of potentially having to cover costs traditionally covered by Medicaid is too much.
This year, the state is sending districts $167 million less than it’s supposed to under its K-12 funding formula in the 2018 budget. Georgia is also underfunding transportation, and leaving districts to pay for busing students to and from school.
Recently, the state also shifted $430 million to districts, when it stopped paying for the health insurance costs of bus drivers, custodians and other non-teaching staff. If the AHCA passes, districts will also have to figure out how to pay for the required special education services, in addition to shifted costs and with a rapidly shrinking budget.
No matter how the costs “shift,” the students — especially those from low income households — ultimately have to pay. Students who are already starting at a lower foothold will miss more class and learn less. They will fall behind in reading and math, will develop behavioral problems and ultimately have a higher risk of dropping out.
By cutting Medicaid for these students, we take away one more lifeline, one more chance at climbing out of the vicious cycle of poverty.