Four reasons to revitalize the Children’s Health Insurance Program

Christopher Dawes, President and CEO, Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford

In an opinion article penned by Christopher G. Dawes, president and CEO of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford Children’s Health, the recent defeat of the Health Care Freedom Act in the U.S. Senate is lauded as a positive step in the fight to protect children’s health care. But Dawes notes that discussions surrounding the future of our nation’s health care policy are not yet over, and calls on the importance of remaining diligent in working with lawmakers in a bipartisan way to keep kids and their families covered.

In the coming weeks lawmakers will vote to reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a long-standing bipartisan-supported program that provides low-cost health coverage for 6 million children across the country, specifically for families whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid, but who cannot afford private insurance. Its authorization expires at the end of September, and some lawmakers are considering a CHIP reauthorization bill as a potential vehicle for broader health care policy changes—including elements of repeal and replace and with that, a possible reduction to Medicaid. Within the op-ed, published by Managed Healthcare Executive, Dawes explains four ways that a failure to reauthorize CHIP, or cuts to Medicaid, would affect children’s health.

  1. CHIP and Medicaid are the foundation for accessing pediatric specialty care. All children who require specialty care (even patients who are privately insured) rely on federally-funded coverage. Historically, when initiatives such as Medicaid have been cut, as in the case of California, the result has been a reduction or elimination of programs that provide specialty care services, which means all patients have less access to specialty care across the board, not just patients receiving federally funded coverage.
  2. Cuts to health care funding would impact ALL children. If healthcare funding is compromised, it not only affects the percentage of families who rely on it for coverage, but it destabilizes the entire children’s healthcare 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.
  3. Children are not small adults. They have unique health care needs and thus coverage for children must be considered differently than it is for adults. The epidemiology of child illness is the opposite of adults in that overall, children are well, and only a rare subset has serious chronic illness. Providing the proper care for children early on can have a significant impact on their health status in the future.
  4. CHIP and Medicaid are lifelines for preventive primary care. Federal funded programs like CHIP and Medicaid provide vital access to the foundation of preventive primary care. From the pediatric hospital perspective, when children are unable to obtain early detection and preventive care, treatable diagnoses can turn into terminal diagnoses.

Dawes echoes the statements made by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association — as legislative discussions begin regarding the reauthorization of CHIP, it is imperative to consider how proposed cuts could be detrimental to the health and future of our nation’s children. He calls on us all to remain vigorous advocates for health coverage and access for our most vulnerable patients, including children.

About Christopher G. Dawes

Mr. Dawes joined Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in 1991 and became its President and Chief Executive Officer in 1999. Mr. Dawes previously served as Chief Operating Officer of the hospital from 1995 to 1997. He served as a board member of the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions, now called the Children’s Hospital Association. He currently serves on the boards of the California Children’s Hospital Association, California Hospital Association and the Santa Clara Family Health Plan. Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisGDawes

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