Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment

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States are required to cover the following services for all Medicaid-eligible children under age 21: periodic screenings to identify physical and mental conditions as well as vision, hearing, and dental needs; and follow-up diagnostic and treatment services to correct conditions identified during a screening.

The Medicaid program’s benefit for children and adolescents is known as Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment services, or EPSDT. EPSDT provides a comprehensive array of prevention, diagnostic, and treatment services for low-income infants, children and adolescents under age 21, as specified in Section 1905(r) of the Social Security Act (the Act). The EPSDT benefit is more robust than the Medicaid benefit for adults and is designed to assure that children receive early detection and care, so that health problems are averted or diagnosed and treated as early as possible. The goal of EPSDT is to assure that individual children get the health care they need when they need it – the right care to the right child at the right time in the right setting.

States share responsibility for implementing the benefit, along with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). States have an affirmative obligation to make sure that Medicaid-eligible children and their families are aware of EPSDT and have access to required screenings and necessary treatment services.1 States also have broad flexibility to determine how to best ensure such services are provided. In general, they either administer the benefit outright (through fee for service arrangements) or provide oversight to private entities with whom they have contracted to administer the benefit (e.g., managed care entities). States must arrange (directly or through delegations or contracts) for children to receive the physical, mental, vision, hearing, and dental services they need to treat health problems and conditions. Through the EPSDT benefit, children’s health problems should be addressed before they become advanced and treatment is more difficult and costly.