Medicaid coverage extended 5 years for Flint children, pregnant women

Melissa Nann Burke
The Detroit News

Washington — The Biden administration will extend Medicaid eligibility for another five years for pregnant women and children in Flint in an effort to treat and prevent the long-term health effects of lead exposure stemming from the water crisis there.

Lawmakers announced the decision Thursday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, after they had sought the extension of the healthcare coverage last year during the Trump administration.

U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing; Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township; and Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, initially worked to secure the coverage in 2016. 

Volunteer Cory Anderson carries cases of bottled water for clients at the Greater Holy Temple in Flint on Thursday, May 7, 2020.

The federal waiver lets the state of Michigan expand Medicaid coverage to low-income children and pregnant women served by the Flint water system during a state-specified time period starting in April 2014, allowing the recipients to receive Medicaid coverage that is exempt from cost sharing and premiums as part of a demonstration program.  

Seven years ago, the Flint water system switched to Flint River water as the source of its drinking water instead of Lake Huron through the Detroit area water system. Experts have said the system's failure to use corrision control chemicals in the water resulted in lead leaching from aging city pipes into the drinking water.

The lawmakers said an estimated 46,000 children and pregnant women have received the expanded coverage as a result of the waiver.

“Lead exposure has a long-term consequence, so the extension of this health care coverage is critically important to these families," Stabenow said in a statement. "While the national attention to this crisis has faded, we have not forgotten the people of Flint."

Kildee stressed that there's no safe level of lead, and that Flint families deserve continued support from the federal level. 

“Thousands of Flint families and children will have access to quality and affordable health care because of this expansion of Medicaid," Kildee said. 

Medical experts have said access to comprehensive health care, developmental screenings for children, lead screenings for pregnant women and other services can help minimize long-term adverse health and developmental impacts due to lead exposure.