Issue Brief

No. 819

EPSDT: Medicaid's Critical but Controversial Benefits Program for Children
November 20, 2006


Christie Provost Peters


The Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) program under Medicaid provides the most comprehensive set of health benefits for children and adolescents in the public or private sector. A cornerstone of early childhood preventive and treatment services in the nation’s health care “safety net,” the EPSDT program serves nearly 30 million low-income children, including children with disabilities and special needs. Over the years, states have expressed frustration with the administrative burdens of EPSDT requirements. Rising Medicaid costs have put all Medicaid benefits, including the EPSDT program, in the budgetary crosshairs. This issue brief reviews the fundamental characteristics of the EPSDT program and highlights some of the challenges it has faced over the years. This paper also describes some of the changes proposed to preserve access to comprehensive care while controlling costs and encouraging administrative simplification and flexibility.

Related Materials

See also the entry for the related Forum Session on children with special health care needs.

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