Don’t Forget the Little Ones in Health Care Reform

With the Senate Finance Committee’s action this week, there’s a lot of buzz over Congress’ work on health care reform. Making law, especially when it’s as controversial as this bit of legislation, is never easy and it’s not always pretty. It’s also pretty darn confusing. Just like Jim Anderson, in his commentary on this site earlier today, I have people ask me all the time about what I think is going to happen. Fact is, I have no idea. That’s not spin, that’s the truth.

Tom McCormally, Senior PR director and Blog editor

When I was at the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development annual conference in Orlando a couple weeks ago, a number of pundits offered their opinions. Something will happen. Some bill will be passed. But the details … well, that’s for our elected officials to figure out (with our help, of course.).

To get a better grasp of what’s going on under the Capitol dome, I turned to Melissa Saladonis, our assistant vice president for Government Relations. She tells me there’s still a lot of work to be done. Here, in part, is what she wrote to our employees this week and she offered to share with you:

“Health care reform could dramatically improve health care for our nation’s children.  However, if children’s issues are not addressed correctly, it could significantly hurt children’s health care and children’s hospitals.

“Many of the variables on this issue are still in play and it is hard to get into too great of detail … We do hope, and are actively seeking, that in any federal reform package that is adopted there are several areas addressed such as:

  • A floor is created for Medicaid at 100% of Medicare rates for pediatric specialists.  Due to pediatric specialty care shortages, children face growing wait times in gaining access to care.  Pediatric specialists should also be reimbursed for their services like that of primary care providers and at 100% of Medicare.  This would allow for children to have better access to care, which in turn would reduce the costs associated with long term health problems and conditions exacerbated by long waiting periods.
  • The State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) is the primary means of insurance for millions of children in this country.  In Ohio and Kentucky SCHIP is an expansion of Medicaid.  There was a considerable amount of concern by child advocacy groups such as Children’s Defense Fund, Voices forAmerica’s Children and others, that if SCHIP kids were forced into the insurance exchange they would be denied coverage and lose benefits.  In an effort to continue to give these kids the same care, Sen.  Rockefeller sponsored an amendment in the Senate Finance bill that would maintain SCHIP in the States.  The issue however is that States are also taking on a new and very expensive population in Medicaid in childless adults.  States will have a difficult time maintaining SCHIP and expanding the Medicaid population.  Additional federal resources are being given to States to help with this problem, but we need to ensure these additional resources are spent on the pediatric population and are not diverted to other parts of Medicaid by the States.
  • We believe the real key to federal health care reform is quality and transformation and it is disappointing that the current debate does not mean real reform to the system.  We are encouraging officials to focus on quality of care when looking to reform the system.  By focusing on providing better care, better experiences for patients and families significant savings in health care costs can be realized.  Reform must become more focused on the quality, safety and reliability of our health care delivery systems.”

If you want to learn more about this, visit the National Association of Children’s Hospitals web site. Or just ask us and we’ll try to answer. And as always, feel free to leave a comment. We really are here to listen to, and converse with, you.

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