Children’s health care advocates rally on National Day of Action

Health care rally

#KeepKidsCovered was the hashtag and the goal for the recent Day of Action — a nationwide movement driven by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association to elevate children’s health within the current health care dialogue surrounding the Senate’s health care bill. As reported this week, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the Senate’s proposed measure would cause 22 million Americans to lose medical insurance over the next decade.

On June 22, 2017, resident physicians and health policy advocates at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford joined fellow children’s health advocates, hospitals and other health care organizations around the country in setting up an “action space” where participants could call their Senators, share their stories and tweet about why protecting Medicaid is important to them.

If passed, the current version of the Senate’s bill includes plans that would ultimately prove harmful to children. Specifically, it would significantly reduce Medicaid funding for children’s health coverage and benefits and diminish cost-sharing protections for kids — essentially creating a new barrier for low-income families seeking health care.

“Protecting Medicaid is central to the mission of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, where we believe that all children, regardless of their ability to pay, deserve equal access to top-tier care,” said Lisa Chamberlain, MD, MPH, assistant professor of pediatrics at Packard Children’s and director of the Pediatric Advocacy Program at the School of Medicine. “Medicaid is a central part of the health care system and covers 43 percent of the children at Packard Children’s. Limiting Medicaid would mean limiting access to our care for so many children, and that is against our mission of serving all the kids who need us.”

Christopher Dawes, president and CEO of Packard Children’s, penned a recent op-ed in the Huffington Post echoing this sentiment. “Maintaining a robust Medicaid program is imperative. Otherwise the entire children’s health system suffers. If Medicaid funding is compromised, it not only affects that percentage of families who use it, but it destabilizes the entire system on two fronts: first, it reduces our ability to provide specialty programs for all chronically ill children, and second, it ignores the critical role of wellness care, early detection and preventative care for all kids.”

The current version of the Senate’s bill also includes a block grant option for states that would exclude Medicaid’s core benefit, EPSDT (Early Periodic Screening and Diagnostic Testing), which ensures children receive immunizations, mental health assessments and vision, eye and hearing exams as well as other medically-necessary care.

Dr. Chamberlain explained in an interview with KPIX-TV CBS Bay Area “if you don’t have preventive care then you end up in the emergency room, and that is a huge bill. It costs our system, and you can’t go to school, and your parents can’t go to work. It really multiplies.”

Parents of patients at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital were also in attendance at the Day of Action and spoke about what Medicaid means for their families. Jennie Briend is the mother of 5-and-a-half year-old Tyler, who was born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (meaning he has half of a heart), as well as cerebral palsy, epilepsy and autism. To date, treatment and care for Tyler’s complex medical conditions have reached more than $17 million worth of medical bills. Without Medicaid support, the Briend family would not be able to continue paying for Tyler’s care. To that, Jennie says, “It should not be up to lawmakers to decide if children live or die.”

Jennie and Tyler

Jennie Briend with her son, Tyler, at the Day of Action on June 22

“Preserving Medicaid coverage is a priority for all children,” explained Sherri Sager, chief government and community relations officer at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. “It’s important for all of our families to know that they have the ability to access care when the need it at the right place, with the right provider and at the right time.”

Read further: Stanford Children’s Health president and CEO, Christopher Dawes on the importance of protecting Medicaid.

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