Families, advocates urged to make voices heard to protect children's access to care - Budget battles threaten pediatrician training, medicaid programs benefiting children.
Caring for children is a big job. That job just got a tiny bit bigger with a new call to action being issued by children's hospitals across the nation.
Families, advocates and the pediatric community are all being urged to "Speak Now for Kids" in the face of threats to Medicaid and the Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program that support children's health care needs by engaging in a letter writing campaign and specific social media activities. Among the social media tools is a compelling video that illustrates the threat to children through garden imagery that can be found on YouTube.
While Medicaid is not subject to automatic cuts as a result of the Congressional super committee's failure to reach an agreement, experts agree that cuts to Medicaid are still on the table. In addition, the U.S. Senate has allowed CHGME to expire, eliminating the nation's sole federal program specifically dedicated to training pediatricians and pediatric specialists. In September, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation to reauthorize the program. The nation's freestanding teaching children's hospitals train 40 percent of all pediatricians and 43 percent of pediatric specialists "physicians that are already in short supply.
"Children are at risk and it's time for every parent and any person with a child in their life to step up and speak out," said Mark Wietecha, president and CEO of the National Association of Children's Hospitals (N.A.C.H.). "Given the nationwide shortage of pediatric specialists, we cannot afford to train fewer promising doctors to meet the specialized needs of our children."
The Speak Now for Kids campaign (www.speaknowforkids.org) is geared to help families of both sick and healthy children make their voices heard by Congress.
Families, the medical community and advocates have already begun sharing the video on YouTube, Facebook, e-mail and Twitter. Viewers are urged to send a letter to their members of Congress at www.capwiz.com/nach/issues/alert/alertid=56448521&type=CO.
These advocates join more than 75 children's hospital CEOs who signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urging the passage of bill S. 958 to reauthorize the CHGME program. The U.S. House of Representatives already passed a similar bill, H.R. 1852, which would continue the program for five additional years at up to $330 million per year, efforts welcomed by advocates for children.
Funding for the CHGME program in the last fiscal year already was reduced by Congress and the Obama Administration by $48 million, from $317.5 million to $270 million, even though the program has successfully increased the number of physicians who care for children.
Ongoing budget battles also threaten Medicaid, which provides insurance coverage for a third of the nation's children.
As Congress continues to wrestle with the task of reducing the deficit, billions of dollars in cuts could fall on the shoulders of sick children. Half of all child patients in children's hospitals are covered under Medicaid.
Cutting Medicaid will not only reduce children's access to care, it will increase the country's fiscal burden. If care is delayed, children are more likely to develop complex medical problems that will be costlier to address.
"Every family in the nation has a stake in this debate. It doesn't matter if your child is healthy or sick. Parents all want the same thing "to know their child will get the best care if and when they need it," said Wietecha. "Families, advocates and the entire pediatric community can make that happen by making themselves heard."
For more information and to learn more about the campaign visit www.speaknowforkids.org
About the National Association of Children's Hospitals
In April 2011, the National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI), the National Association of Children's Hospitals (N.A.C.H.) and The Child Health Corporation of America (CHCA) announced their merger into a single organization governed by a common board of directors. The merger brings together the talents, resources and expertise of the staff of the three organizations and 222 children's hospitals. The new organization is led by President and CEO Mark Wietecha.
The new organization with offices in Alexandria, VA, and Shawnee Mission, KS, is currently developing its new mission and vision, including name, look and description. To better help you understand the value this new organization offers members, we provide you a synopsis of the major components.
CHCA is an alliance of 43 children's hospitals in North America. CHCA hospital executive and clinical leaders share data, knowledge and buying power to reduce costs and improve clinical and operational performance in children's hospitals.
NACHRI is a not-for-profit association of children's hospitals in North America, Asia, Australia and Europe. NACHRI promotes the health and well-being of all children and their families through support of children's hospitals and health systems committed to excellence in providing health care to children. NACHRI works to ensure all children's access to health care and the continuing ability of children's hospitals to provide services needed by children. NACHRI and N.A.C.H. represent 222 children's hospitals.
N.A.C.H. is the public policy affiliate of NACHRI and a trade association of children's hospitals. N.A.C.H. supports children's hospitals in addressing public policy issues that affect their ability to fulfill their missions to serve children and their families.
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