Report Highlights Importance of School-Based Administrative Activities

As we featured earlier this week on the Policy Center, a new report by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research has found that 70% of children in California with mental health needs never end up receiving treatment. While this number is astounding so too is the fact that more than 90% of these children had health insurance.

The report concludes by stating that the data suggests there are other barriers besides health insurance for why these children are not receiving the treatment they need, most notably issues navigating the health care system.

Navigating the health care system from coverage to treatment follow-ups is something that school staff – health practitioners, special education and other teachers, clerical staff, and some administrators – do routinely as part of their work to ensure students have the care they need to meet their educational goals.

California’s school-based Medi-Cal Administrative Activities (MAA) program gives school districts an opportunity to receive federal reimbursement for the money spent to connect, enroll, and coordinate Medi-Cal covered health services for children both within the district and out in the community. School districts report that it is often the case that early detection, and a commitment to helping families schedule appointments and obtain follow-up treatment for their children, has prevented the development of more serious medical complications and conditions in students.

The school MAA program has been in existence for more than 20 years in California, and school districts have come to depend on the reimbursements they receive through the program which is often used to support staff salaries, cover the cost of health and educational equipment, or fill other budgetary needs specific to the district.

However, since 2012 the program has been jeopardized by deficiencies in the state’s past administration of the program that were found as the result of a federal audit. The findings from this audit resulted in a federal deferral of reimbursements to schools for MAA claims, and kicked off a two-year drought in funding that has yet to be adequately resolved. School districts have been forced to jump through a litany of hoops to certify, and re-certify, claims dating back to January of 2010 – and while the process seems to be moving forward, some schools are being asked to cut their claims yet again or risk losing all payment.

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research report is a testament to the necessity of school-based activities to support the proper and efficient administration of Medicaid in California and the children who rely on this coverage for the services they need. Now is not the time to question the integrity of this invaluable work, it is a time to encourage and support these activities and the children in need of assistance.

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Follow the ongoing deferral by reading the latest news and publications on our Issue Analysis page…

See the latest updates posted to the state’s SMAA website…