By: Hansa Bhargava, MD, FAAP
Many have made children's health care into a "political" issue, but as a pediatrician who sees many children covered by Medicaid, I really don't think it is. I believe it is a health issue. All children deserve to be vaccinated, get care for common infections and illnesses, and for serious diseases like cancer.
Some of us may not be paying attention to this perceived "political" issue, but I would argue that even if your children are covered this should matter to YOU.
My children are insured through my employer coverage. Most of my friends' kids are insured this way, too. So, while the conversation about healthcare reform goes on, you may feel that your kids are safe. After all, it's really not going to affect your kids, right? Wrong.
Stripping Medicaid could potentially adversely affect ALL children—including those who are insured. Here are a few examples.
Medicaid and government-related insurances now cover 47% of the children in the United States. That includes:
Vaccinations. If your child goes to school, the chances are pretty good that at least some kids in the class will be covered by these services. What happens if children in the class—those who can't get vaccines because of Medicaid cuts—end up getting measles? It means your child will be exposed. This is what recently happened in California and Michigan.
Vision and hearing screenings. If vision and hearing screenings are not done, some of the children in your child's class will not be able to see the board properly or hear the teacher. Although some kids may just shut down and let their academics quietly suffer, others will act out. If the child sitting next to yours falls into this group, he or she may get frustrated and start disrupting the class. The consequence: the teacher gets distracted and spends more time coping with kids' behavior issues vs. teaching. Is it really fair that this child should not get a proper education just because his or her parents can't afford to get his or her vision and/or hearing checked?
Medications for infections, chronic conditions, and mental health disorders. As a mom and pediatrician, I know that health can turn on a dime. Recently, I met a family whose son was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. His medications cost $70,000 a year. This family has gone bankrupt trying to pay for their son's medicines.
Treatment for cancer and other serious diseases. A good friend of mine has a son who was just diagnosed with cancer. She had to take several months off work to cope with this. Fortunately, she was at a job that was understanding and let her take the time. But, in many cases, parents who cope with this are let go—just when they need that insurance for very hefty medical bills. Cancer is a diagnosis that can cost both jobs and bank accounts. The truth is that any of us could get bad news on any given day—news that literally brings us to our knees. And it may require that, as unthinkable as it may seem right now, we must turn to governmental resources.
So, please, stand up for your children, mine, and the rest of the nation's children.
As parents, our voices matter. We can make a difference in policy that can hurt all of us. As moms and dads, we just need to.
Additional Information from HealthyChildren.org:
About Dr. Bhargava:
Hansa Bhargava, MD, FAAP is Senior Medical Director at WebMD, Senior Medical Advisor at Medscape, and Staff physician at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. At WebMD she leads strategy around pediatric content, helps to develop products such as apps and tools to help get timely relevant information to parents and oversees a team of medical experts to ensure accuracy and credibility of articles, videos, and other content. In her role as a spokesperson for these initiatives, she interacts with broadcast, radio, and print media, and hosts her own series at Medscape called 'Uncharted Medicine.' Within the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Bhargava is a member of the Council on Communications and Media Executive Committee. She is a graduate of University of Toronto Medical School and is board certified in Pediatrics. Her favorite role is to be a mom of two kids in Atlanta. Follow her on Twitter @hansabhargavaMD.