My Turn: We must act to preserve health care access for millions of children

For the Monitor
Published: 6/25/2019 12:15:22 AM

Chase is a happy, content teen with a fantastic disposition from Kensington. He loves to attend school, ride his bike and cheer for his sister’s softball team. He’s a terrific brother and an immense source of pride to his mother, and he is also a 15-year-old with Dandy-Walker malformation, a rare but serious congenital defect impacting brain development, hearing and vision that affects his movement, behavior and cognitive ability and places him at risk for seizures and paralysis.

When Chase was diagnosed, he needed to be airlifted via Dartmouth-Hitchcock Air Response Team (DHART) to Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD), where he has been admitted four times over the past six months for pneumonia.

Fortunately, Chase has Katie Beckett insurance to support his family’s private health insurance. Katie Beckett is a form of Medicaid administered by the state of New Hampshire that provides home care for children with severe disabilities. One out of every three children in New Hampshire – and nearly 37 million children nationwide – are covered by Medicaid, making it the single largest insurer for children in the United States. For children with complex medical conditions who badly need the pediatric specialists at children’s hospitals like CHaD, where at least half of our 85,000 patients rely on Medicaid programs, it is a lifeline.

This week, Chase and his family will join me and nearly 50 other families from children’s hospitals across the country at the Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., where we will visit our state’s congressional delegation to ask them to safeguard Medicaid. Without congressional action by Oct. 1, devastating cuts to New Hampshire’s allotment of the federal Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payment program will go into effect. These payments supplement Medicaid reimbursement, which does not cover the cost of care at hospitals like Dartmouth-Hitchcock and CHaD. Moreover, the Trump administration has signaled its willingness to consider waivers to convert Medicaid to a block grant program, which would decrease the federal funding that flows to states to support Medicaid.

CHaD benefits greatly from community and philanthropic support across the region. But any further weakening of Medicaid could seriously jeopardize our mission to treat every kid – regardless of insurer – as a “CHaD kid,” with the best care, in the right place, every time.

The health and well-being of millions of children depends upon not only preserving but improving Medicaid. As a program jointly funded and regulated by federal and state governments – that requires support and investment in Washington and Concord.

(Dr. Keith J. Loud is physician-in-chief of Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.)

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