COMMENTARY

Medicaid Cuts Hurt Us All

Hansa Bhargava, MD

Disclosures

July 20, 2017

Is healthcare for children a political issue? Many have made it so but as a pediatrician who sees many children covered by Medicaid, I really don't think so. I believe it is a health issue. All children deserve to be vaccinated and to receive care for both common infections and illnesses as well as 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 by a generous insurance policy, this concern still matters to you.

My children are insured through my employer coverage. Most of my friends' kids are 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;

  • Vision and hearing screenings;

  • Medications for infections, asthma, and mental health disorders; and

  • Treatment for cancer and other serious diseases.

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. So if children who can't get vaccines because of Medicaid cuts get measles, that means your child is exposed. This is what happened in California and Michigan recently.

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. Although some kids may just shut down and let their academics quietly suffer, others will act out. If the child sitting next to yours can't see the board or hear the teacher properly, he may get frustrated and start disrupting the class. This becomes a situation where the teacher is distracted and spending more time coping with kids' behavior issues and not teaching. And is it really fair that this child should not get a proper education, just because he can't afford to get his vision or hearing checked?

And one last point. 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. A good friend of mine has a son who was just diagnosed with cancer. She had to take several months off of 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 bills. Cancer is a diagnosis that can cost jobs as well as bank accounts. The truth is that any of us could get the bad news on any day, which literally brings us to our knees. And it may require that, unthinkable as it may seem right now, we have to turn to governmental resources.

So, please, stand up for your children, mine, and the rest of the nation's children. Physicians matter. We have a well-respected voice and we can make a difference in policy that can hurt all of us. As moms and dads, we just need to.

Follow Dr Bhargava on Twitter @Dr_Hansa
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