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Pediatrics. 2013 Apr;131 Suppl 2:S142-8. doi: 10.1542/peds.2013-0252e.

From EPSDT to EHBs: the future of pediatric coverage design under government financed health insurance.

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  • 1Department of Health Policy, The George Washington University, Washington, DC 20006, USA.


We review the evolution of federal financing for child health care over the past 40 years. The Social Security Amendments of 1967 established the program of early and periodic screening, diagnosis and treatment (EPSDT) as a required Medicaid benefit. The EPSDT amendments directed agencies to cover "early and periodic" screening and diagnostic services to ascertain "defects" and "chronic conditions" in children, as well as health care and treatment needed to "correct or ameliorate" such defects and conditions discovered during the screening examinations. The 1997 enactment of the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) shifted federal policy from the use of an early coverage standard to one that gives insurers much more discretion to define medical necessity and coverage exclusions. CHIP programs offer coverage that is narrower than the benefits available under Medicaid. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires significantly more classes of care to be covered than does CHIP but well below the level of coverage under Medicaid. Implementation of the ACA to date suggests that the US Department of Health and Human Services will only demand pediatric coverage pegged to the commercial insurance market standards, rather than Medicaid's unique pediatric coverage standard. Although EPSDT's emphasis on early, developmental, and ameliorative services might result in more comprehensive benefits for children, particularly those with special health needs, one might still describe the ACA coverage as providing a basic, minimal level of services from a distributive justice perspective. It may, however, vary from state to state. States have the authority to decide whether to use an EPSDT-style approach or to follow the more restrictive approach of commercial insurance plans. Advocacy at the state level will determine which approach different states take.

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