To Improve the Lives of At-Risk Children and Families, Expand Access to Home Visiting Services Through Medicaid, New Center for American Progress Report Proposes

Mother and child

Creating a new Medicaid benefit for evidence-based home visiting services would simplify funding and allow states and communities to scale services, improve outcomes for families, and produce significant savings for states and the federal government.

Washington, D.C. —(ENEWSPF)–November 12, 2015.  A new report from the Center for American Progress puts forth a proposal to dramatically expand access to evidence-based home visiting services by including these services as an optional Medicaid benefit. Doing so would markedly improve the lives of thousands of at-risk children and families, as research has shown that home visiting can lead to improved outcomes, such as better maternal and child health; increased school readiness; and the prevention of child injuries, abuse, and neglect.

“Home visiting programs provide critical services that not only benefit the families and children who participate but also provide cost savings for taxpayers down the road,” said Rachel Herzfeldt-Kamprath, Policy Analyst at CAP. “Evidence-based home visiting programs that have undergone rigorous evaluations prove that they can produce positive social outcomes that ultimately result in government savings.”

“Expanding home visiting should be a simple choice for lawmakers. States should not be forced into assembling piecemeal funding for proven programs that serve at-risk families,” said Topher Spiro, Vice President for Health Policy at CAP. “Home visiting has long enjoyed bipartisan support, and scaling services on a national level would not only improve the lives of thousands of at-risk families but also be an efficient use of government spending and save taxpayer money.”

Home visiting programs connect parents with nurses, social workers, or other professionals who provide coaching and guidance on healthy child development and link families with other important services, according to CAP’s report. The largest federal funding source for home visiting—the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting, or MIECHV, program—provides resources to expand home visiting to at-risk children and parents. However, the positive effects of evidence-based home funding services have limited reach, as they are typically underfunded. For instance, the MIECHV program reached just 115,000 families this year—a fraction of the children and families living in poverty.

Under CAP’s proposal, states that want to expand access to home visiting services could use Medicaid funding for an approved model through a state plan amendment to their Medicaid programs. CAP envisions the federal government incentivizing participation in this option and enabling states to scale home visiting services by providing upfront funding to states in the form of a five-year loan. States would pay back this loan with the savings associated with participation in the programs.

Scaling home visiting services on a national level would not only improve the lives of thousands of at-risk families but also would save money and use government spending more efficiently. CAP’s report calculates savings of $2.4 billion and $813 million over 10 years at the state and federal levels, respectively. The report estimates that by scaling evidence-based home visiting services, the United States could reduce infant deaths by 20,000, reduce preterm births by 400,000, and reduce child maltreatment incidents by 1,680,000, as well as reduce intimate partner violence incidents, youth arrests, and youth substance abuse. The report includes a state-by-state breakdown of these calculations.

Click here to read “Paying It Forward: New Medicaid Home Visiting Option Would Expand Evidence-Based Services” by Rachel Herzfeldt-Kamprath, Meghan O’Toole, Maura Calsyn, Topher Spiro, and Katie Hamm.