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Medicaid Matters for Kids Briefing Series Begins on the Hill

On Feb. 22, the Children’s Hospital Association kicked-off its four-part Medicaid Matters for Kids briefing series with Medicaid and Kids 101. The briefing gave congressional staff a “101,” or basic understanding, of Medicaid’s structure, including: who the program serves, what types of services it provides, and how it is financed. 

On Feb. 22, the Children’s Hospital Association kicked-off its four-part Medicaid Matters for Kids briefing series with Medicaid and Kids 101. The briefing gave congressional staff a “101,” or basic understanding, of Medicaid’s structure, including: who the program serves, what types of services it provides, and how it is financed. With Medicaid covering more than one in three children nationwide, the information provided to Hill staff comes at a critical juncture as the program remains vulnerable to cuts as a means to alleviate budget pressures at the federal level. The panelists touched upon the Affordable Care Act (ACA)’s change of eligibility and its effects on children.

Cynthia Pellegrini, senior vice president for public policy and government affairs with the March of Dimes, opened the briefing as moderator, emphasizing how important Medicaid is to all children, providing services across all spectrums regardless of diagnosis or income.

The first panelist, Joan Alker, co-executive director Georgetown Center for Children and Families, set the context of the briefing. According to Alker who cited data from Georgetown Center for Children and Families, children make up 50 percent of the beneficiary group within Medicaid but only take up 20 percent of the cost. Although uninsured children are below national averages, red tape increasingly bars children that are eligible for Medicaid from being insured. Alker explained that as the ACA expands eligibility within the Medicaid system and more people are insured through Medicaid and the Exchanges, children too will gain more coverage.

Stan Dorn, J.D., senior fellow with the Urban Institute, followed Alker, presenting on data from the Institute on which children are covered by Medicaid and how they qualify. Dorn stated that 46 percent of all American births are covered by Medicaid, emphasizing that mothers covered during pregnancy can significantly increase the chances children are born healthy, reducing post-natal costs. According to Dorn, three-fourths of children covered by Medicaid have at least one parent employed either part or full time. Dorn stressed that Medicaid is not just for the poor. Medicaid can provide supplementary coverage to families with private insurance that may not cover all service required for their child’s care. Medicaid is also critical to children with special health care needs, providing them with lifesaving services.

The third panelist, Andrew Urbach, M.D., Associate Medical Director for Clinical Excellence and Services with the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, presented on the unique role children’s hospitals play in providing care for all children. According to Urbach, an average of 53.5 percent of patients at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is covered by Medicaid, which only reimburses 77 percent of costs in the state. Children’s hospitals take pride in not only caring for sick children but also caring for families, providing services for siblings and parents while their child is in the hospital. Children’s hospitals also play a unique role in providing care to children throughout the country. In 2012 alone Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC treated children from more than 40 states. Urbach left a lasting impression upon staff, stating “Medicaid protects our most vulnerable population—children.”
The final presenter, Jana Monaco, discussed how vital Medicaid has been to her family, particularly to her son, Stephen. When Stephen was diagnosed at 3 years of age with an inborn error of metabolism, isovaleric academia, the Monacos could not forsee how critical Medicaid would be to Stephen’s long term care. While the Monacos are covered by private insurance, it does not cover every service or piece of equipment Stephen required, such as his wheelchair, feeding supplies and respite care. Jana stressed how Medicaid has enabled her and her husband to continue to care for their other children without worrying about burdensome medical debt.

More than 90 congressional staffers and organizations attended the event, making the briefing a success in getting the message out: Medicaid matters to kids.

This briefing was the first in a four-part series dedicated to exploring how Medicaid matters to kids’ health. Medicaid Matters for Kids features national pediatric policy experts addressing topics such as the basics of Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and cost-saving innovations in delivery system improvement. For more details on upcoming briefings, visit www.childrenshospitals.net/medicaidmatters.

The briefing series is sponsored by Children’s Hospital Association, First Focus, American Academy of Pediatrics, March of Dimes, Georgetown Center for Children and Families and Family Voices in cooperation with the Congressional Children’s Health Care Caucus. 


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