The United States Congress is now meeting to determine the future of the nation’s healthcare system including Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). With expansion through the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid is most often thought of as an adult issue, impacting adult healthcare. After all, adults account for the majority of the spending in the program.
It can be easy to forget about children in these conversations. We shouldn’t. While our nation spends drastically less on their healthcare, we cannot forget that children make up more than 50 percent of the Medicaid program. When we talk about the future of Medicaid, we are also talking about the future of children’s health care.
Consider these basic points:
· Medicaid, and the related Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), cover about half of all children.
· Thanks in part to these programs, 95 percent of U.S. children have health insurance, a historic high.
· Any cut to Medicaid or CHIP would likely decrease the total percentage of children covered
· Any cut to Medicaid would disproportionately affect children.
None of these points mean we should not have conversations about Medicaid’s future. There is room for federal, state and local innovation in taxpayer-funded health coverage, and many of us in the field of pediatrics understand how important it is to provide quality care at an affordable cost, while ensuring families and physicians can make all necessary medical decisions. We are working to ensure that health care dollars are spent wisely.
For example, Nationwide Children’s Hospital has created a unique partnership with Medicaid Managed Care Plans in Ohio to cover 330,000 children in the central and southern parts of the state. This partnership resulted in an 18.6 percent drop in asthma-related emergency department visits among children in the region and an 18 percent drop in hospital admissions among a group of especially complex patients.
Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and the State of Minnesota Department of Human Services have created a similar partnership to provide healthcare to approximately 15,000 children covered by Medicaid.
Children covered by the partnership for two or more years were associated with a 40.6 percent decrease in days spent in a hospital and an overall 15.7 percent reduction in cost.
These successes were possible in part because children had access to primary care pediatricians and other health care providers when they needed them. They were able to receive age-appropriate screening tests, vaccines and medication because of Medicaid and CHIP.
These achievements show the nation’s children’s hospitals working to advance solutions to improve care and eliminate unnecessary costs for taxpayers. As policymakers look to the future of Medicaid and CHIP, we ask that you work with physicians, hospitals leaders and families to improve care and ensure our nation’s future.
Children’s healthcare should not be a partisan issue. Let’s remember that in the coming days.
Steve Allen, MD, is chief executive officer of Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio and Immediate Past Chair for Children’s Hospital Association. Nationwide Children’s is one of the largest not-for-profit freestanding pediatric healthcare networks in the United States.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.