The topic of healthcare reform in general is one we’ll leave to the leadership in Washington D.C. to sort. However, we feel it’s crucial to increase awareness of changes that would have severe impact on our schools right here in eastern Oregon.
If approved, the act will cap Medicaid payments to Oregon and jeopardize healthcare access for vulnerable children. Our elected officials are proposing cutting hundreds of billions of dollars in Medicaid spending; such cuts could be detrimental to students with special education and health needs in our schools, and the ripple effect of lost funding could impact all students.
School districts across the nation receive about $4 billion from Medicaid every year and much of the money helps to defer the cost of our special education programs. Locally, we use these funds to support physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech pathology and nursing services to our medically fragile students. In addition, our regional Community Care Organization receives Medicaid reimbursements to provide mental health and nursing services. Providing such services in the school environment allows students to receive quality care, relieves the burden of such care on families and helps us pool resources to provide services to students at a lower cost. Without the ability to bill Medicaid for these important student supports, districts are forced to locate outside providers to care for students and pay potentially higher costs without reimbursement, which means reductions in other areas for all students to offset the expenses.
The InterMountain ESD region serves approximately 29,000 students in 18 districts. We receive roughly $340,000 in Medicaid funds from both fee for service and Medicaid service claiming. If our children lose access to the Medicaid dollars, our districts would have to offset the loss of this revenue by cutting other areas. We must do everything we can to make sure the Senate does not pass this bill. We must encourage our senators to fight against these devastating and unnecessary cuts to services that our low income and special needs kids rely upon. Our children are depending on us.
Dr. Mark Mulvihill, InterMountain ESD Superintendent
Heidi Sipe, Umatilla School District Superintendent