Health Reform Must Include Children

The debate in health reform includes some of the heaviest hitters: senior members of Congress, insurance company giants and Washington’s top lobbyists. Now, add children to that mix, including one who received a lung transplant at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. She recently went to Washington to urge lawmakers to include children’s health needs in health reform legislation. Pat Hernandez has more.

Nearly nine million children in the U.S. don’t have health insurance. Coverage provided through Medicaid often leaves gaps in access to care because of low provider reimbursement for services. 14 year old Reagan Hailey was diagnosed with a rare lung disease. She is alive thanks to the doctors at Texas Children’s Hospital who performed a transplant operation.

“They have been a very big help with everything…financially, health-wise. They really actually care about the patient. They don’t just want to make them better, they actually care about them. That has probably made a big impact on life overall.”

Hospitals like Texas Children’s provide nearly 40-percent of all hospital care for children, especially those with serious medical conditions and no medical coverage. Reagan realizes her parents absorbed a major portion of the cost of her medical bill.

“My lung transplant cost 630-thousand, and they are still paying off most of the bills. It’s so high that I don’t know how anyone can pay it off.”

Reagan joined other children in Washington as part of the National Association of Children’s Hospitals’ Family Advocacy Day. It’s an effort to ensure that national health reform legislation guarantees affordable health insurance coverage for all children and access to high-quality, specialized care. Amy Ossman is director of Medicaid and state policy analysis at the NACH. She says things are different since the last time a Democrat occupied the White House.

“One thing that’s different is that there is a lot of public support for health care reform right now, and I think that there’s more issues than health care that I think the public is aware that we need to address, because it’s affecting them, as it has affected Reagan’s family directly.”

Ossman says health reform represents an immediate opportunity to improve the health status of children, by making sure they have access to the care they need, regardless of their family’s financial situation.

“We want to make sure than in all the efforts and opportunities that come with health care reform, that there is a focus on children. There is still significant gaps in terms of children’s health insurance coverage. There’s  many children who just don’t have health insurance, and then children who need really specialized care that hits certain limits on their private insurance. So, we want to make sure that children are able to get the care that they need when they need it.” 

Congress will spend the summer trying to figure out how to pay for health care reform, like tax increases and spending cuts.    

Pat Hernandez, KUHF…Houston Public Radio News.