Medicaid marks its 50th anniversary this week, and a new report examines the lifelong benefits the program has provided to some of Illinois' most vulnerable children.
According to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, kids who receive Medicaid benefits grow into healthy adults with better educational outcomes and greater financial security.
Margaret Stapleton, healthcare justice director with the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law, says the benefits are invaluable.
"They're all going to have a physician that's paying attention to their development and their well-being," she says. "And we all know that kids getting attention and preventive care when they need it makes a world of difference for them for the rest of their lives."
One-point-six million Illinois children receive health services through Medicaid. The program also benefits low-income seniors and those with disabilities.
The study compiles research gathered over the last several years on individuals who received Medicaid as children in the 1980s and 90s. Report co-author Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, says there's a positive economic impact.
"Some studies are now finding that children who received Medicaid actually pay more taxes as adults and use fewer government subsidies," she says. "The government is getting a great return on investment by providing kids with Medicaid."
Alker adds the program has played a vital role in reducing the uninsured rate for children, dropping it to about seven percent in 2013, down from 12 percent in 1987.