Medicare Is a Life-saving Necessity for Many Texas Children

Yesterday, in the midst of a busy morning in my pediatric practice, I saw a newborn baby just home from the hospital, a teenage girl in foster care struggling with a rare bone and muscle disorder, a 1-year-old little girl with congenital blindness, and a 5-year-old who needed a physical to enroll in school for the first time. These children have little in common. They are different races, different ages, and speak different languages in their homes. But one thing connects them: they all receive their health coverage through Medicaid.For these children and 2.5 million others in Texas, Medicaid is a lifeline to health and future prosperity. Children account for 70 percent of people covered by Medicaid in Texas, but only account for only 30 percent of the program expenditures. Medicaid provides preventive care including injury prevention and nutritional guidance, vaccinations, specialty care for complex medical needs, acute care for emergencies, and therapy for children with developmental delays. Investing in children's health is crucial to the future of our state and our country. Children who have health coverage miss fewer days of school, have higher graduation rates, earn higher wages, and go on to pay higher taxes as adults.Forty percent of Texas children are insured by Medicaid. These are the children you encounter every day on the soccer field, at the grocery store, and sitting next to you at church. Their parents are caring for our elderly in nursing homes, serving our meals, and driving our ambulances. For many of them Medicaid is life saving.Take my patient Amy, a bright, bubbly 3-year-old girl who was born with a complex heart defect called transposition of the great arteries. The large blood vessels in her chest were connected to the wrong parts of her heart preventing oxygenated blood from getting to her body. This condition can be fatal, especially for a child like Amy whose family lives an hour from the nearest neonatal intensive care unit and several hours from the nearest children's hospital.Thankfully, Amy's mom was enrolled in Medicaid during pregnancy and the care she received detected Amy's heart condition before birth. Amy's family was able to plan for her birth at a children's hospital where a team of neonatologists and cardiologist were quickly able to stabilize her. Several surgeries later Amy is thriving; she has a bright future thanks to her parents and the care she receives through Medicaid.Congress is moving to enact the American Health Care Act that would cut federal Medicaid funding by $880 billion dollars during the next 10 years and could cap federal funding to states for our children's care. These cuts could impact Texas greatly, forcing our state to limit eligibility and reduce services provided for the children of Texas. This legislation would put our most vulnerable children at risk, especially children with special healthcare needs and those from low-income families.The children I care for have something else in common in addition to their reliance on Medicaid. They cannot vote. They will be greatly affected by the choices our lawmakers make in the coming days, but they do not have a voice. They are relying on the adults in our state to let our elected representatives know that Medicaid matters. It saves lives. It ensures that children have an equitable opportunity for health and success.I stand with the 3,700 pediatricians of the Texas Pediatric Society, the Texas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics in asking our elected officials to reject the cuts to Medicaid in the American Health Care Act. Texas simply can't afford it.Dr. Valerie Borum Smith MD, is a pediatrician at St. Paul Children's Clinic in Tyler and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She wrote this column for The Dallas Morning News. Email:  Continue reading...

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