Youngstown news, Health-care needs of children given short shrift in Congress

Published: Sun, September 3, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m.

CHILDREN … We all were children at one time, and we love to show off pictures of our children and grandchildren. Politicians love to be photographed holding or kissing a baby. Our country has 70 million children today, and we routinely hear people say that “children are our future.”

Given our supposed love for our country’s children, however, we need to ask why the word “children” has barely been mentioned in the recent heated health-care debates playing out in our nation’s capital. It’s both puzzling and disheartening that children and their health care are being ignored by our elected officials.

Children in harm’s way

Those seeking to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) have ignored the health-care needs of our children, placing 40 million children at risk of losing their health care coverage. The debate is not about our children, their health care, their future, or the future of our country. The debate is about shallow campaign promises and decimating the Medicaid program to free up $880 billion for a tax cut on the backs of our children.

Most Americans, including our elected officials, do not know that the No. 1 insurer for children’s health care in this country is the Medicaid program. Medicaid for children is like Medicare for our elderly, and we never discuss eliminating care for the elderly.

Why are we willing to sacrifice our children?

More than 33 million children in the United States depend on Medicaid, and an additional 7 million children are enrolled in a program called the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which coordinates with Medicaid. This means more than half of our nation’s children are covered by Medicaid, and nearly all children with disabilities depend on Medicaid funding.

In Ohio, we have 2.4 million children, and 1.3 million of them are covered by Medicaid. Medicaid to children is health care – not welfare.

Since 1966 when Medicaid was adopted to cover the needs of children and mothers, the program has been expanded to cover nursing home costs, prescription drugs, and the 26- to 64-year-old population that gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act. That population and those in nursing homes deserve coverage, and so do our children.

Children, however, are being crowded out of Medicaid and are a forgotten minority now in our public policy discussions. They represent nearly half of everyone on Medicaid, yet account for less than 20 percent of Medicaid spending.

A 2015 Yale study quantified the positive return on investment seen for children covered by Medicaid. The study concluded, “People who had been eligible for Medicaid as children, as a group, earned higher wages and paid higher federal taxes than their peers who were not eligible for the federal state health insurance program.”

If children are our future, then let’s invest in their health. It’s time for us to establish a separate program at the national level for child health care. A national program could be budget-neutral by simply moving current federal and state Medicaid spending for children into a new program. A national program would also provide uniform coverage for children’s services that crosses all states and replaces the current situation of 50 different programs and benefit packages for children.

Just for our children

Our children deserve better. Ask your elected officials to advocate for children in the health-care debate. Ask them to establish a separate program for children, one that they and all Americans understand is just for our children.

Children don’t vote, but you do. It’s time to use your vote to elect men and women who aren’t afraid to use the word “children” when they’re discussing public policy initiatives.

William H. Considine has been the chief executive officer of Akron Children’s Hospital since 1979.

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