Change Indicator

Medical Assistance (MA) - Population (birth to age 18) by age group in Pennsylvania

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Why This Indicator Matters

Medical Assistance (MA), also known as Medicaid, is a federal and state funded health insurance program for low-income populations.[1] In the United States, Medicaid provides health insurance for millions of children and covers a full range of medical services. Children in Pennsylvania are eligible for Medicaid coverage if their household income falls within 157% (for ages 1 through 5) or 133% (for ages 6 through 19) of the federal poverty level.[2] Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program provides a complete health care package for children so that professionals can identify medical issues early and they can receive a healthy start in life. The most important element of the state’s MA program is the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment Program (EPSDT), which is federally funded, offers regular checkups, and pays for medical services, treatments, and follow-up care for all eligible children.[3] Providing healthcare coverage to low-income families is important because it ultimately plays a crucial role in their ability to live a productive, secure, and healthy life.[4] In fact, research suggests that children covered by Medicaid experience numerous positive long-term economic outcomes, such as  higher educational attainment and greater lifetime earnings.[5] Having health insurance coverage is also associated with better health-related outcomes, including chronic conditions, cancer, and life expectancy.[6]

[1] Rudowitz. R., Williams, E., Hinton, E., & Garfield, R. (2021). Medicaid Financing: The Basics. Kaiser Family Foundation.

[2] Pennsylvania Health Law Project. (2020). Medical Assistance Eligibility Manual.

[3] Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. (2021). MA Services for Children. Medical Assistance Eligibility Handbook.

[4] American Hospital Association. (2019). The Importance of Health Coverage.

[5] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. (2018). Medicaid Works for Children.

[6] Bovbjerg, R.R. & Hadley, J. (2007). Why Health Insurance is Important. The Urban Institute, Healthy Policy Briefs.

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Definition and Source



The total number of low-income children of all ages receiving health coverage through Medical Assistance (MA), the state’s version of Medicaid.

Data Source

Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, Office of Income Maintenance, Bureau of Program Support


As discussed in our State of Children's Health Reports, a key factor affecting increased enrollment within Medicaid was the disenrollment freeze that began March 18, 2020, implemented in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). This freeze remained in place until the federal public health emergency (PHE) ended in April 2023. Unlike Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was not included in the FFCRA freeze, meaning that children were not guaranteed to keep their CHIP coverage during the PHE. As such, much of the decrease in CHIP enrollments occurred for children whose family income fell within Medicaid eligibility and were appropriately transferred. Those children retained coverage in Medicaid due to the disenrollment freeze regardless of any additional fluctuations in family income.

Last Updated

December 2023