WASHINGTON, D.C. – Following National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week last week, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) joined a group of Democrats in urging the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to do more to address prevention, screening and treatment of children affected by lead exposure. In a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, Casey and his colleagues demanded an update on the steps CMS will take to address demonstrated gaps in data pertaining to blood lead level screenings and urged CMS to renew its commitment to ensuring appropriate lead screening for children at risk of lead exposure.
Right now, federal law requires blood lead screening “as appropriate for age and risk factors” for all children enrolled in Medicaid, including lead screenings at 12 months and 24 months of age. However, because the data is incomplete, CMS is impeding its own ability to address lead poisoning prevention. Lead exposure can lead to serious health consequences, including a lifetime of disease and behavioral challenges. Even as rates of lead poisoning are falling nationwide, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that children in at least four million households across the United States are currently exposed to high levels of lead – whether from paint, contaminated soil, water, toys or other household items.
“Childhood lead exposure remains a serious public health challenge for communities across the country. With Medicaid serving as an essential health coverage source for the nation’s children, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) plays a critical role in the prevention, screening, and treatment of children affected by lead exposure. Accordingly, as we enter National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, we write to receive an update on the steps CMS is taking to address demonstrated gaps in data pertaining to blood lead level screenings and urge CMS to renew its commitment to ensuring appropriate lead screening for children at risk of lead exposure,” the Senators wrote.
Under the Obama Administration in 2016, CMS took a number of actions aimed at improving blood lead screening and testing for Medicaid-eligible children, including the collection of data to try and help ensure the delivery of blood lead screening. However, data on statutorily mandated blood lead screenings remains incomplete. As a result, it is unclear how many children at risk of lead exposure are actually receiving required and needed blood lead screenings in accordance with federal requirements and CMS policy.
The Senators are asking Administrator Verma to do more to increase screening rates, emphasize prevention, and facilitate early intervention.
The letter was signed by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Angus King (I-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jack Reed (D-RI) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)
Full text of the letter to CMS can be found here.