Wolfson Children’s Hospital patient family visits Capitol Hill to urge Congress to safeguard Medicaid for kids 

 

The Sproles family speaks on behalf of 30 million children reliant on Medicaid

One local family is taking their story to Capitol Hill to urge Congress to protect, not cut, children’s Medicaid funding as proposed in recently introduced federal bills, the American Health Care Act of 2017 and the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017. The Sproles family’s effort in Washington, D.C., is part of a broad national push to address key health care needs for children through the Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day, July 12-13, 2017, sponsored by the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA).

As scientific advances have made it possible for more kids to survive serious conditions, a growing number of children are relying on Medicaid to help meet their complex medical needs. Of the more than 30 million kids enrolled in Medicaid, at least 2 million have complex medical conditions like congenital heart disease, cerebral palsy and cancer.

Norah, age 5, is a medically complex child who was born with spina bifida. She underwent surgery at Wolfson Children’s Hospital to close the opening in her spine, and later required a second surgery to implant a shunt to drain fluid from the brain. Further complications revealed there was another defect located at the base of her skull at the spinal cord. More surgeries followed, including the placement of a breathing tube to protect Norah’s airway, and a feeding tube to help her eat until she was able to swallow on her own.

Today, Norah receives care from 10 pediatric physician specialists, coordinated by the Bower Lyman Center for Medically Complex Children at Wolfson Children’s. “The care coordination the center provides has been invaluable, from helping us with insurance to making sure that her medical needs are met,” said Megan Sproles, Norah’s mom. “We’re also thankful for Medicaid. We’d be so deep in the hole without it.”

Norah and her family will meet with their members of Congress to share how Medicaid coverage benefits her care and how the House and Senate health care bills could negatively affect their lives.

According to a recent report by Avalere Health, the U.S. House-passed American Health Care Act, on which the Senate bill was modeled, would cut Medicaid funding for children by at least $43 billion over 10 years by eliminating Medicaid’s open entitlement and replacing it with a capped system that limits Medicaid funding to states. Avalere estimates that Florida could see a funding reduction of $2.2 billion by 2026. As children represent nearly half of all Medicaid enrollees but less than 20 percent of program costs, a severe cut to Medicaid funding would disproportionately affect them.

“Our nation has finally reached a record high level of health care coverage for children – 95 percent. If the Senate agrees to turn Medicaid into a capped program, cutting children’s Medicaid funding by billions of dollars, then we will jeopardize children’s health care, their health outcomes and ultimately their futures,” said Michael D. Aubin, president of Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

“Protecting Medicaid for children and reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program for an additional 6 million children are top priorities for Wolfson Children’s Hospital. Each year we see more and more children like Norah who rely on Medicaid to access highly specialized care from multiple providers in different care settings. We can avoid cuts to Medicaid by focusing on solutions like the ACE Kids Act of 2017 that would not only improve care for children like Norah but reduce Medicaid funding.”

The ACE Kids Act of 2017 would save Medicaid an estimated $13 billion over 10 years through coordinated care delivery crossing state lines. The bill is supported by a bipartisan group of 17 senators, and a House version is expected soon.

More than 40 percent of children rely on Medicaid, and so do the roughly 200 children's hospitals, like Wolfson Children’s Hospital, that deliver highly specialized pediatric care 24/7. “Dramatic cuts to Medicaid as proposed in the House and Senate bills endanger the continued viability of our nation's children's hospitals,” said CHA President and CEO Mark Wietecha. “As a matter of public policy, we should not be attempting to fix our national budget problems by cutting children's health care.”

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