Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment

The Title V Maternal and Child Health Services (MCH) Block Grant program and the Medicaid program are required under federal law to coordinate activities, using coordination agreements and partnerships between state Medicaid agencies and Title V MCH program grantees to improve access to services for children and pregnant women. (Section 505 [42 U.S.C. 705] (a)(5)(F)) This website describes the law and opportunities states are using to coordinate Title V and Medicaid. In particular, coordination with the Medicaid Early Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment (EPSDT) benefit is required. 

The EPSDT benefit provides comprehensive health coverage for all children under age 21 enrolled in Medicaid. Created in 1967 and required in every state, EPSDT finances various appropriate and necessary pediatric services. This benefit requirement includes children enrolled in a state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) through Medicaid Expansion CHIP, but not those in separate, private CHIP health plans.

Since Medicaid covers one-third of children age 1–6, and more than 40% of school-age children and adolescentsone, EPSDT offers a way to ensure that children birth to age 21 receive appropriate physical, dental, developmental, and mental health services—from prevention to treatment.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services produced EPSDT – A guide for states: Coverage in the Medicaid Benefit for Children and Adolescents (PDF - 613 KB) to describe states' roles and responsibilities.

Core EPSDT Program Activities

The elements of the program include:

Early Assess and identify problems early, starting at birth
Periodic Check children’s health at periodic, age-appropriate intervals in comprehensive well-child visits, including health education
Screening Provide physical, dental, mental, developmental, hearing, vision, and other screening or laboratory tests to detect potential problems
Diagnosis Perform diagnostic tests and assessments to follow up when a risk is identified during screening and examinations
Treatment Control, correct, or ameliorate any problems that are found

Anyone under age 21 enrolled in Medicaid receives coverage for EPSDT benefits and services—at regular intervals and whenever a possible problem appears—to identify physical, dental, developmental, and mental health conditions. In addition to health services, benefits include scheduling appointments, arranging for treatment, and financing transportation to keep appointments. (42 U.S.C. Sections 1396a(a)(10)(A), 1396a(a)(43), 1396d(a)(4)(B), 1396d(r)). As described in federal rules, states are required to: “[a]ssure that health problems found are diagnosed and treated early, before they become more complex and their treatment more costly, … that informing methods are effective, … [and] that services covered under Medicaid are available.” (CMS, State Medicaid Manual Sections 5010, 5121, 5310)

Well-child preventive screening visits

Known as EPSDT screening visits, the program defines and finances preventive well-child visits that include a comprehensive health and developmental history, an unclothed physical exam, immunizations, laboratory tests, and health education and guidance for parents and children. Such EPSDT “check-up” visits are covered at age-appropriate periodic intervals recommended by professionals on a schedule set by states and at other times, as needed.

HRSA has supported the Bright Futures Initiative since 1990, working to increase the quality of primary and preventive care through maintenance and dissemination of age-specific, evidence-driven clinical guidelines. The Bright Futures Guidelines exit disclaimer icon are listed in CMS’ State Medicaid Manual (Section 5123.2), as an example of recognized and accepted clinical practice guidelines for EPSDT screening. In 2018, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), supported by a grant from HRSA, developed state-specific reports providing detailed information about each state Medicaid program’s EPSDT benefit and how this compares to the AAP/Bright Futures 4th edition guidelines and recommendations. exit disclaimer icon

Vision, hearing, and dental services are typically provided separately from medical primary care under a distinct schedule based on professional standards but must include Medicaid coverage for screening, diagnosis, and treatment services. For example, eyeglasses and hearing aids are covered. Required dental services include:

  • Maintaining dental health
  • Relief from pain and infections
  • Restoration of teeth
  • Medically necessary orthodontia

The professionally recommended schedules for vision, hearing, and dental check-ups are different than the recommended schedule for well-child health care visits set out in Bright Futures.

Medically necessary treatment

EPSDT requires states to “arrang[e] for … corrective treatment,” either directly or through referral to appropriate providers or licensed practitioners, for any illness or condition detected by screening. (CMS, State Medicaid Manual Section 5124) As described by CMS, this obligation to connect children with any Medicaid service, including optional services not covered for adults that are medically necessary treatment, is unique.

Under EPSDT, Medicaid covers medically necessary services to treat identified physical, dental, developmental, and mental health conditions. This includes all medically necessary services within the categories of mandatory and optional services (as defined under listed in Medicaid law section 1905(a)), regardless of whether a state chooses to cover such services for adults and the elderly. Examples of services covered for children include the following:

  • Preventive visits
  • Mental and behavioral health services
  • Case management
  • Speech-language-hearing, occupational and physical therapy
  • Eyeglasses, hearing aids, and augmentative communication devices
  • Dental care
  • Medical equipment & supplies
  • School-based health services
  • Therapeutic child care
  • Personal care services
  • Rehabilitation services
  • Nutritional supplements/medical foods

Determinations of medical necessity are made by the state or, under delegated authority, by the health plan for a child under EPSDT and must be made on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the individual child's particular needs and guided by information from the child’s health providers. Hard, fixed, or arbitrary limits (e.g., based on dollar amounts, standard deviations from the norm, lists of diseases) are not permitted. States may and do set limits for an individual. For example, the state cannot limit physical therapy visits to 12 per year for all children as an arbitrary cap on such services but might determine that an individual child needed only 12 monthly visits in a year. The goal is to ensure that children in Medicaid receive treatment services (PDF - 613 KB) that are “medically necessary to correct or ameliorate any identified conditions – the right care to the right child at the right time in the right setting.” Services may be necessary to prevent further advancement of a condition (maintenance or control), ameliorative, or corrective, as when services help a child reach the age-appropriate developmental level.

Other Key State Responsibilities under EPSDT

  • Providing EPSDT outreach, information to parents about the EPSDT benefit, appointment scheduling assistance, and transportation assistance.
  • Covering inter-periodic screening visits to determine the existence of suspected physical or mental illnesses or conditions, as identified by health, education, or other professionals.
  • Using reasonable and appropriate prior authorization standards.
  • Setting managed care performance standards.
  • Reporting EPSDT performance data, mainly with CMS Form 416.
  • Establishing an interagency agreement with the state’s Title V MCH program.

EPSDT - Title V MCH Program Interagency Collaboration

EPSDT - Title V Requirements

Federal law requires coordination and partnerships between state Medicaid agencies and Title V MCH program grantees to ensure better access to screening, diagnostic, and treatment services. Interagency agreements, a requirement in Medicaid and Title V statute and regulation, are the primary mechanism for structuring coordination and partnerships. While both the federal Medicaid/EPSDT and Title V law call for coordination between the programs, the language is different, as noted below.

Federal Medicaid/EPSDT law requires

  • Establishment of written state MCH-Medicaid interagency agreements that provide maximum use of Title V-supported services, effective use of Medicaid resources, and improving child health status. (42 CFR 431.615 and 1902(a)(11))
  • Reimbursement of Title V providers for services rendered, even if such services are provided free of charge to low-income uninsured families. Payment mechanisms include reimbursement for costs, capitation payments, or prospective interagency transfers with retrospective adjustments. (42 CFR 431.615(c)(3) and (4))

In addition, between 1967 and 1989, Congress enacted several amendments to Title V, adding requirements to work closely with and assist Medicaid in a number of activities. Current Title V law requires that state MCH programs do the following.

  • Assist with coordination of EPSDT to ensure programs are carried out without duplication of effort. (Section 505 [42 U.S.C. 705] (a)(5)(F)(i) and Section 509 [42 U.S.C. 709] (a)(2))
  • Establish coordination agreements with their state Medicaid programs. (Section 505 [42 U.S.C. 705] (a)(5)(F)(ii)
  • Assist in coordination with other federal programs, including supplement food programs, related education programs, and other health and developmental disability programs. (Section 505 [42 U.S.C. 705] (a)(5)(F)(iii)
  • Provide, directly or through contracts, outreach, and assistance with applications and enrollment of Medicaid-eligible children and pregnant women. (Section 505 [42 U.S.C. 705] (a)(5)(F)(iv)
  • Provide a toll-free number for families seeking information about Title V or Medicaid providers or services. (Section 505 [42 U.S.C. 705] (a)(5)(E)
  • Projects designed to increase the participation of obstetricians and pediatricians under Title V or Medicaid. (Section 501 [42 U.S.C. 705] (a)(3)(B))
  • Share data collection responsibilities, particularly related to services provided for pregnant women and infants eligible for Medicaid or CHIP. (Section 505 [42 U.S.C. 705] (a)(3)(D))
  • Not use Title V MCH Block Grant dollars for services to individuals or entities excluded from Medicaid (Title XIX), Social Services Block Grant (Title XX), or Medicare (Title XVIII). (Section 505 [42 U.S.C. 705] (b)(6))

Examples of EPSDT –Title V MCH Partnerships

  • As part of a Title V priority for increasing children’s access to physical, behavioral, mental, and developmental services, Ohio’s Title V MCH program implemented a quality improvement collaborative in FY 2018 to boost developmental screening. In support of this effort, a state-led EPSDT Improvement Advisory Committee was established that includes representatives from multiple state agencies (including both Title V and Medicaid) and family and organizational stakeholders. The state also modernized policies for billing and data reporting.
  • Montana has included the Medicaid EPSDT Nurse Consultant as part of Infant Mortality Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network (IM CoIIN) efforts led by Title V. Focusing on safe sleep, Medicaid and EPSDT were seen as essential to changing the knowledge and behaviors of both families and providers. One aspect of this work is an approach designed for providers working with Native American populations on infant safety and well-being in four tribal areas.
  • Vermont has long had a strong partnership between Medicaid and the Title V MCH program. Through the state’s interagency agreement, the MCH program administers key elements of EPSDT, including efforts to improve quality and access. For example, MCH leadership facilitates Vermont’s Medicaid Exchange Advisory Board’s EPSDT workgroup—comprised of parents, advocacy organizations, and state representatives—which is charged with identifying gaps in the EPSDT system, advancing recommendations, and providing feedback directly to Medicaid to inform improvements.
  • In many states, Title V MCH programs have adopted a role in quality improvement and support as use of Medicaid managed care has grown. For example, the West Virginia MCH program is working closely with Medicaid and managed care organizations to assist children and youth with special health care needs (CYSHCN) move into managed care while assuring their needs are met. These efforts helped align care coordination, primary care referrals, and other supports for CYSHCN eligible for both coverage and the Title V program.
  • In Colorado, MCH staff coordinated a Care Coordination Collaborative that focused on increasing efficiency and reducing duplication of care coordination services for CYSHCN provided through Medicaid’s Accountable Care Collaborative Program, Healthy Communities (EPSDT Outreach Program) and Title V MCH program.

State Strategies for Using Title V to Strengthen Medicaid’s EPSDT Program

While the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is responsible for administering the federal guidelines for Medicaid and EPSDT, state partnerships are critical among state Medicaid agencies, Title V MCH programs, families, providers, and managed care organizations to ensure access to needed services for children. States use coordination and partnerships between Title V and Medicaid to improve child health access and outcomes. The more flexible funding from Title V can complement Medicaid and support activities not funded under health coverage. As discussed above, federal law requires that Medicaid State Plans specify cooperative arrangements, payment, and other service-related agreements with Title V grantees. (42 CFR 431.615(e))

EPSDT rules state that Federal financial participation (FFP) is available to cover the costs to public agencies such as Title V MCH grantees for providing direct services to Medicaid child beneficiaries. EPSDT rules suggest opportunities and, over the years, states have adopted a variety of best practices.

State Title V MCH programs play a role in developing strong and effective EPSDT programs to reach children with prevention and treatment services. The EPSDT rules encourage state Medicaid agencies to delegate tasks to the state Title V agency and its grantees to assure access and receipt of the full range of screening, diagnostic, and treatment services. Such delegation may be local, regional, or statewide. In some cases, a Title V program may be designated as a “Medicaid Provider”. Below are strategies undertaken by Title V Agencies to improve EPSDT programs.

Interagency coordination to improve program efficiency and effectiveness

  • Adopt effective, evolving interagency agreements between Medicaid and Title V MCH programs.
  • Delegate tasks from Medicaid to Title V MCH programs to assure access and quality.
  • Develop standards of care and policies to support quality improvement in EPSDT, including the development of managed care contract provisions.
  • Assist in the design of EPSDT periodicity schedules and objective screening tools.
  • Assist in evaluation and/or monitoring EPSDT program performance.
  • Assist in developing managed care contract provisions and in monitoring the adequacy of managed care plan provider networks.
  • Oversee EPSDT screening visits in local health departments, including data collection to monitor screening rates.

Supports for informing and engaging families

  • Create toll-free hotlines and/or online referral resources to assist families with information about and enrollment in Medicaid and EPSDT.
  • Provide outreach, care coordination, and referral services.
  • Assist with eligibility and enrollment processes, streamlining.
  • Train home visitors to provide EPSDT outreach and informing, in addition to financing, home visiting services outside MIECHV.

Provider training and capacity building

  • Recruit, train, and support public and private EPSDT providers, including pediatric "medical home" initiatives.
  • Develop clinical guidance, training, and quality improvement projects for providers based on Bright Futures exit disclaimer icon and EPSDT rules.
  • Provide EPSDT well-child (screening) visits through Title V MCH program-funded child health clinics, billing Medicaid as appropriate.
  • Promote dental screening and preventive oral health services (e.g., fluoride rinsing, dental sealants) in pediatric primary care settings.
  • Promote use of EPSDT financing for school-based health centers in medically under­ served communities, as well as other school health initiatives.
  • Use Title V block grant funds for centers of excellence and regional centers for specialty pediatric care, including child development, genetic services, orthopedic care, sickle cell disease treatment, and HIV/AIDS.
  • Coordinate service delivery for children with special health care needs enrolled in Medicaid.
  • Aid in design or management of services for children with the most severe chronic conditions or disabilities such as children’s care services or specialty palliative and hospice nursing care in the home.
  • Assist in planning for pediatric approaches to value-based purchasing and accountable care organizations.
  • Collaborate with the state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, American Academy of Family Physicians, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Dental Association, Primary Care Associations, and other professional organizations to train providers and promote participation in EPSDT.

Case Management in Medicaid and EPSDT

Title V program leaders often create or fund care coordination. While there is no specific care coordination benefit category under Medicaid, care coordination may qualify for reimbursement as case management. Often the terms care coordination and case management are used interchangeably in the case of children. Medicaid describes case management as an activity under which responsibilities for locating, coordinating, and monitoring necessary and appropriate services for a recipient rests with a specific individual or organization. Title V should work with the state Medicaid staff on specifying case management services, as their support is key.

Administrative case management

Administrative case management includes activities that help the program operate efficiently and ensure that children receive needed health care. The federal government contributes at a rate of 50% for administrative case management under EPSDT, which in many states is less than FFP for medical services. Case management in the EPSDT process is a type of administrative case management. It generally refers to the outreach, informing, and other administrative roles that support the delivery of services required under EPSDT.

Targeted case management

States have the option to design and provide targeted case management for specific patients, specific geographic areas, or specific sets of services. Targeted case management is added as a benefit through a State Plan Amendment (SPA), and the federal contribution is at the medical assistance rate (i.e., like other medical care services). For example, more than 30 states use targeted case management to provide care coordination for pregnant women and infants. More than 10 states use targeted case management or other Medicaid benefit categories to finance home visiting services, to supplement the resources available under the federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program. States are also using targeted case management to provide enhanced support for children with special health care needs and developmental disabilities.

Managed Care

A large majority of children covered under Medicaid are enrolled in managed care arrangements. Federal law requires that state contracts with managed care organization must identify, define, and specify the amount, duration, and scope of each service that the managed care plan is required to furnish to enrollees.

EPSDT benefits not provided by the managed care plan remain the responsibility of the state Medicaid agency, so that in combination benefits delivered in managed care and those covered on a fee-for-service will ensure access to the full EPSDT benefit. If a managed care contract excludes benefits, the state retains responsibility for providing necessary services. Contracts between states and managed care organizations should also reflect whether the contractor or the state is responsible for informing beneficiaries of EPSDT benefits and offering scheduling, transportation, and other assistance. The specific contract language is essential for EPSDT. MCOs need to know exactly what services they are responsible for covering. Enrolled children and their families need to know what services they are entitled to receive from the MCO and what services they are entitled to under the state Medicaid program.

Local health care systems can vary based on provider supply, public health structures, health coverage patterns, and state laws. Increasing the effectiveness of relationships between pediatric providers and other child-serving entities is one key step toward improving care and services for families. State Title V MCH programs can and should help local public health agencies learn about managed care and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) process. As it relates to EPSDT, MOUs between health agencies and managed care organizations might define interaction related to care coordination, data reporting, immunization billing, and services for children with special health care needs.

Title V's Role in Data and Quality Monitoring in EPSDT

EPSDT Data Requirements and Opportunities

State Medicaid agencies report annually on EPSDT services using CMS Form 416 (PDF - 183 KB). The annual report provides basic information on the number of children (by age and basis of Medicaid eligibility) who receive medical or dental screens and the number referred for diagnostic or treatment services. The data is limited because it provides data on the numbers of children screened, not how many children are receiving diagnostic or treatment services under EPSDT. CMS has publicly available EPSDT data as reported by states using CMS 416 forms.

The CMS Center for Medicaid & CHIP Services (CMCS) has worked with stakeholders to identify core sets of health care quality measures that can be used to assess the quality of health care provided to children enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP. CMS has publicly available data regarding the use of children’s preventive services, including well-child visits for children and adolescents, as part of reporting on the Medicaid/CHIP child core measures (PDF - 161 KB).

Since the core sets were established in 2010, states have made significant progress in voluntary reporting on measures in the child core set, and some states have demonstrated high performance. Moreover, regular updates are being made to the measure set as knowledge and data capacity evolve.

State Title V agencies can play an important role in monitoring EPSDT. The examples below describe some current and past data and monitoring activities undertaken by Title V agencies.

Monitoring performance

  • Assist the Medicaid agency in improving EPSDT screening ratios and participation ratios (in the CMS 416 data system) based on the 80% performance goal.
  • Assist the Medicaid agency in collecting data and reporting on the Medicaid-CHIP child core measure set.
  • Promote use of developmental screening measure, which aligns with Title V national performance measure and goals.
  • Collect data on service use and outcomes of children with special health care needs enrolled in Medicaid, including those enrolled in both Medicaid and Title V CYSHCN programs.
  • Promote the use of data from the required Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS®) survey regarding access to primary and specialty services, access to networks of care, and care coordination, particularly for children with special health care needs.
  • Link databases such as vital statistics on births, immunization registries, lead screening data, Title V data, and Head Start data to Medicaid claims data.

Managed care and provider related activities

  • Encourage the use by maternity and pediatric providers of EPSDT and Medicaid child health data collection tools.
  • Monitor EPSDT screening rates among local health departments that provide well-child care.
  • Encourage use of the Promoting Healthy Development Survey (PHDS) validated tool for measurement and quality in primary care.
  • Assist in conducting managed care record review or focus studies.
  • Monitor the adequacy of well-child screening visits.
  • Use managed care performance data to improve child health services and quality improvement projects.

The EPSDT Role in Promoting Child Health and Well-being

EPSDT goes beyond addressing efforts to respond to physical health needs, acute illnesses, and specific diseases. One of the program’s strengths is in addressing child health in a comprehensive manner. Four examples—developmental services, mental health services, dental care, and vision and hearing services—underscore the importance of EPSDT for promoting overall health and well-being and reducing disabilities.

Developmental Screening and EPSDT

Developmental screening is a national goal and a Title V priority. Screening to promote early identification of developmental risks and conditions is critical to the well-being of children and their families. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that developmental screening with an objective tool begin at the nine-month well-child visit. One Title V National Performance Measure (NPM) is the percent of children, ages 10 through 71 months, receiving a developmental screening using a parent-completed screening tool.

Developmental screening is also part of EPSDT. Federal law requires comprehensive well-child visits through EPSDT, including periodic developmental screening based on nationally recognized professional recommendations for periodicity. During early childhood, screening for physical and mental/behavioral health and other risks is essential to identify risks and possible delays in development. Developmental screening at specific times in early childhood, developmental surveillance at each well-child visit, and follow-up diagnosis and treatment are recommended for all children to ensure early intervention to correct or ameliorate conditions. Developmental screening is required for children enrolled in Medicaid, and covered for children enrolled in Medicaid expansion CHIP. A CMS Fact Sheet (PDF - 143 KB) describes CMS resources to support states in ensuring Medicaid-enrolled children receive these screenings. A joint effort initiative between the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Education, Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! provides additional resources to support states, providers, and communities to increase developmental and behavioral screening of young children.

Federal EPSDT rules call for screening of young children across six primary domains of development, including: gross motor, fine motor, communication skills or language development, self-help and self-care skills, social-emotional development, and cognitive skills. While no specific list of screening instruments is prescribed, federal rules call for the use of a culturally sensitive and validated tool, and some states recommend a short list of specific, validated tools. State Title V MCH grantees play an essential role in advancing evidence-based practice, identifying recommended tools, and promoting widespread use of developmental screening.

The Medicaid/CHIP Child Core Measurement Set includes a measure of: “Developmental Screening in the First Three Years of Life.” This measure is designed to monitor how Medicaid and CHIP programs are performing terms of developmental screening of very young children and can be used in quality improvement programs intended to help providers and manage care organizations improve their performance. To help states collect and report data on this measure, CMS hosted a webinar (PDF - 205 KB) in June 2013: Developmental Screening in the First Three Years of Life: Understanding How to Collect and Use the Child Core Set Measure.

Mental Health and EPSDT

Federal law requires complete well-child examinations with screening services through EPSDT, including screening for potential developmental, mental, behavioral, and/or substance use disorders. EPSDT also finances diagnostic and treatment services, if medically necessary, for social-emotional, behavioral, and mental health conditions. EPSDT covers mental health and substance use disorder services, regardless of whether these services are covered for adult services. Treatment for mental health conditions is available under several Medicaid service categories, including hospital and residential treatment facilities, outpatient clinic services, physician services, and services provided by a licensed professional such as a psychologist and clinical social workers. Medicaid finances intensive care coordination and so-called “wrap-around” services for children with mental health conditions. CMS has an informational bulletin (PDF - 205 KB) (released on March 27, 2013) on: Prevention and Early Identification of Mental Health and Substance Use Conditions in Children.

Dental Health and EPSDT

Dental services required in the EPSDT benefit include: dental care needed for relief of pain, infection, restoration of teeth, and prevention and maintenance of dental health (provided at as early an age as necessary); and emergency and therapeutic services for dental disease that, if left untreated, may become acute dental problems or cause irreversible damage to the teeth or supporting structures. In addition, medically necessary oral health and dental services, including those identified during an oral screening or a dental exam, are covered for children. Under EPSDT, states must cover orthodontic services necessary to prevent disease, promote oral health, and restore oral structures to health and function. A special report by CMS, Keep Kids Smiling provides more detailed guidance for states.

Although an oral screening may be part of a physical examination, federal law requires a direct referral from an EPSDT medical screening visit provider to a dental professional. Professional recommendations call for dental visits to begin by age one.

The recommended schedule for dental visits is different than the medical periodic visit schedule. With the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry and MCHB-HRSA, CMS issued a Guide to Children’s Dental Care in Medicaid (PDF - 610 KB). American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry schedule for “Periodicity of Examination, Preventive Dental Services, and Oral Treatment for Children,” recommends that a dentist see children following the eruption of the first tooth, but no later than 12 months of age. Many states have adopted this professional standard for EPSDT.

The federal resource website Insure Kids Now offers families a tool to find a dental provider who accepts Medicaid. The Dentist Locator is a resource that can be used by parents, pediatric providers, and public health agencies to find a dentist in their community who is available to see children covered by Medicaid/EPSDT. State Medicaid has a responsibility to maintain up-to-date provider lists for the Dentist Locator and Title V MCH programs.

Vision and Hearing Services

Vision and hearing services are an essential component of the EPSDT benefit. Hearing impairments can lead to other problems, including interference with normal language development in young children. They can also delay a child’s social, emotional, and academic development. Vision problems can be evidence of serious degenerative conditions, and can also lead to learning and social development delays. EPSDT calls for screening, diagnosis, and treatment of vision and hearing services, generally including speech and language services.

States’ Responsibilities to Inform and Assist Families

EPSDT finances health care for children and ensures that children receive appropriate, quality services to improve their health. As described in federal program rules:

The EPSDT program consists of two, mutually supportive, operational components: assuring the availability and accessibility or required health care resources, and helping Medicaid recipients and their parents or guardians effectively use them.”

Within broad federal guidelines, states have the flexibility to design an EPSDT program that fits with their Medicaid, public health, and medical care systems. Informing and support services to families are specifically described in the federal EPSDT rules.

State Requirements under Medicaid

  • Inform all Medicaid-eligible children under age 21 and their families about EPSDT on a timely basis (i.e., within 60 days of enrollment for children and immediately following birth for newborn infants).
  • Use effective methods of communication and clear, non-technical language in informing families with a recommended combination of face-to-face, oral, and written information.
  • Inform Medicaid-eligible pregnant women about EPSDT, as well as adoptive and foster care parents of eligible children.
  • Offer and provide, if requested and necessary, assistance with transportation to medical care. Specify the state’s responsibility for transportation assistance and describe the methods to be used in the state Medicaid plan.
  • Offer and provide, if requested and necessary, assistance with scheduling appointments for EPSDT visits and services.

Title V agencies—both the HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau and the state MCH programs that receive block grant funding—have a strong commitment to promoting family-centered, community-based, culturally competent systems of care. State MCH programs, in particular, can play an important role in helping Medicaid agencies fulfill these EPSDT requirements. By promoting and helping to implement EPSDT, Title V agencies can help Medicaid agencies better fulfill their responsibilities, particularly to provide effective outreach, information, and assistance to families.

Examples of EPSDT Materials for Parents

  • Colorado has a family-friendly version of EPSDT rules and regulations (PDF - 45 KB) on its Medicaid EPSDT website that includes clear language about prevention and treatment services, as well as a state agency staff contact.
  • Iowa’s Title V MCH program has a webpage regarding EPSDT that includes information about benefits and visit schedules. It also gives families a toll-free number to contact one of the EPSDT care coordinators in each of the state’s 99 counties for assistance.
  • Parent-to-Parent of Vermont produced an excellent guide for parents (particularly those whose children have special health needs) called Six Ways to Access Medicaid/EPSDT (PDF - 1.35 MB).

EPSDT and Other Interagency Partnerships

For over 40 years, EPSDT has evolved. As Medicaid changed, states have updated and improved their benefits and financing approaches (e.g. use of managed care, coverage of more low-income children, following Bright Futures recommended schedule). Congressional and court actions have also affected the program. It has adapted to changing pediatric guidelines. The program’s purpose continues to be “to discover, as early as possible,” and provide “continuing to follow up and treatment so that handicaps do not go neglected.” To that end, Medicaid’s EPSDT coverage works interactively with an array of other public programs, including but not limited to Title V MCH programs. The following examples illustrate the importance of these interactions.

Child Welfare Programs, including Foster Care

Children entering the foster care system are entitled to Medicaid coverage, with initial and ongoing EPSDT well-child visits and other benefits. States have a variety of approaches to fulfilling this obligation. For example, many states have specific rules and guidelines for promoting the EPSDT among children in foster care, and approaches for informing and supporting foster parents.

IDEA Part C Early Intervention Program

Under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part C program, states provide early intervention services for infants and toddlers (up to age three) that currently have a high risk of experiencing developmental delays. Some children qualify for both Medicaid and IDEA financing. Federal law permits Medicaid financing for certain services provided to a child and family under Part C, particularly health-related services such as occupational, physical, and speech-language hearing therapies. The IDEA states that “Nothing in this part may be construed to permit a State to reduce medical or other assistance available in the State” or to alter eligibility under Title V MCH programs or Medicaid regarding medical assistance for services furnished to an infant or toddler with a disability exit disclaimer icon when those services are included in the child exit disclaimer icon’s plan under IDEA Part C. (34 CFR Section 303.510(C))

Head Start Program

Health has been a component of Head Start, and the program’s history is linked to the history of EPSDT. Head Start 2016 Standards (PDF - 785 KB) maintain health as a critical component of the Head Start model, retaining previous screening and ongoing care requirements and strengthening and expanding the role that programs play in ensuring health services for their children and families. Head Start standards are specific and strong in relation to health and EPSDT. For example, within 90 days of a child’s admission, Head Start programs must assess whether each child is up-to-date in relationship to Medicaid’s EPSDT well-child health and dental periodicity schedules and help parents stay up-to-date with such visits. (45 CFR Chapter XIII Section 1302.42) Current standards also emphasize mental health, oral health, and parent education on health issues. A majority of children served in Head Start programs are Medicaid-eligible. The federal Head Start program calls for coordination to improve access to care for these children. Many Head Start local programs rely on Medicaid participating providers to provide screening, diagnosis, and treatment services for participating children. Many local Head Start agencies report that the families they serve face challenges in finding child health providers—physicians, dentists, developmental, and/or mental health providers—who accept Medicaid. While it covers health-related services for children in Head Start, Medicaid does not pay for Head Start services.

Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program

The federal Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program support pregnant women and families, particularly those considered at-risk, to gain the necessary resources and skills to raise physically, socially, and emotionally healthy and ready children to learn. The goals are to:

  • Improve maternal and child health
  • Prevent child abuse and neglect
  • Encourage positive parenting
  • Promote child development and school readiness

At a minimum, MIECHV funded home visiting programs have a role in referral families to Medicaid, encouraging the use of preventive health services (e.g., prenatal care, well-child visits, immunizations, developmental screening), and supporting healthy behaviors. In some programs, stronger linkages with pediatric primary care providers are being developed. In most states, a large majority (80-90%) of families participating in MIECHV are Medicaid beneficiaries, indicating opportunities for MIECHV sites to help families secure EPSDT funded services. A few states are augmenting MIECHV resources with evidence-based home visiting services financed by Medicaid.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

WIC provides supplemental food and nutrition education at no cost to low-income pregnant, postpartum, and breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to their fifth birthday. WIC nutrition, both food, and education serve as an adjunct to good health care. Coordination with the WIC program is required under EPSDT rules, and referrals to EPSDT are required for all WIC’s target population categories. Medicaid does not pay for WIC services.

Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Resources


Date Last Reviewed:  December 2018