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Advocacy and Policy's blog

Building an Office of Children and Youth

by Caroline DeRosa, Senior Director, Policy and Advocacy, Children's Health Fund

Last Wednesday, I spent the day on Capitol Hill meeting with Congressional staff and talking with them about one of Children's Health Fund (CHF)’s legislative priorities for this year: Establishing a White House Office for Children and YouthThe purpose of this office would be to create a national policy strategy for the nation’s children and to ensure that all programs and services for kids, which are spread throughout many government agencies, are acting in coordination with each other as part of the national strategy. To learn more, please take a look at the comments CHF recently submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services on a national strategy for children.

All of the Congressional staff I met with were generally in agreement that more focus needs to be directed toward bettering the outcomes for America’s kids. With one in five kids being born into poverty, 30 percent of students failing to graduate from high school and 9 million children lacking health insurance, how could you not want to fix things, right? But many of the staffers cited they were too busy with other issues to champion this effort. Ironically, this is exactly why we need an office to focus just on kids. Too often other priorities get pushed to the top of the agenda and our kids lose out.

Luckily, we have some members of Congress that ARE willing to take charge on this issue and we look forward to working with them to ensure the well-being of children, especially the underserved.  Our promise is to continue to fight to make sure kids issues are a main focus of the federal government.

Sharing The Mission

By Dennis Johnson, MPA Executive Vice President, Policy and Advocacy

One of the more enjoyable and energizing aspects of my work is the occasional opportunity to speak with young people about the Children's Health Fund mission and how we leverage our assets to help medically underserved kids and communities. Today we had a group in from Notre Dame University, who wanted to learn about our medical programs and how they informed our policy and advocacy activities. College students have a way of cutting through the organizational and policy doublespeak that diminish clear thinking and expression and our guests were no exception.  Their questions were incisive went right to the heart of why our work is so vital. If not now, when? If not us, who?

CHF Executive Director, Karen Redlener, in recalling the genesis of the organization, told of her earlier post-college experience as a VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) volunteer in rural Arkansas.  Many of our guests seemed to sense a connection with their own interest in exploring ways of uplifting communities and helping the disadvantaged to gain better access to critically needed services. They also seemed to have a genuine interest in the scope of healthcare issues that remain to be addressed. When our chief medical officer Dr. Arturo Brito explained the breadth of the Children's Health Fund National Network, our guests began to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the enormous challenges that children face in the medically underserved communities of America. Most were amazed to learn that nearly a quarter of American children live below or at the poverty line and that that number continues to increase. There was a great deal of interest in learning about the elements that constitute the “enhanced medical home” model of care, what it means for the children we care for and why it is central to the our mission. When the discussion segued to the Fund’s policy and advocacy work the questions turned, as they so often do, to basic fundamental questions about why a great nation hasn't figured out how to make quality healthcare available to all children. There were some terrific questions about the economics of healthcare and the best ways to convert our lessons learned into more responsive national policy. Though we didn't have a great deal of time to explore issues in depth, I think we were able to breathe a little excitement into an issue that is too often cast only in terms of cost, benefit and return on investment. For those of us who work the nuts and bolts of these issues every day, having a spirited discussion with a group of bright young thinkers was a splendid way to begin the work week and a reminder of the impressive, committed young people that will rise to carry our mission forward.

My Day in Albany

By Deirdre Byrne, Director of Policy, Children's Health Fund

On Monday, I traveled to Albany with one of the doctors at the New York Children’s Health Project, Dr. A.J. Khaw. Our agenda for the day included several meetings with legislators and fellow advocates from the Providers of Health Care for the Homeless Coalition. This is budget season in Albany and the state is facing a $10 billion budget deficit. While the state has not proposed cutting Medicaid rolls or other drastic measures, the Governor formed a Medicaid Redesign Team (MRT) to find $2.85 billion in savings for FY 2012, which starts on April 1, 2011, and beyond.

During our meetings, Dr. Khaw and I talked about our programs and state budget concerns, including a proposal by the MRT to enroll all homeless children and families into Medicaid managed care, an alternative that may not work well for homeless children. This is just one of 79 MRT recommendations put forward by Governor Cuomo that must be approved by the legislature as part of the budget process. (Learn more about the recommendations from the Medicaid Redesign Team.)

While the state has successfully implemented managed care for a majority of Medicaid recipients, we believe that the use of managed care for this population is inappropriate and interferes with their access to care. Homeless children and families face unique challenges as a patient population; requiring enrollment in managed care cripples their access to care and also puts health care for the homeless providers at moral and financial risk.

Want to know more? Read CHF’s letter to the MRT on homeless health care.

Defunding Health Care Reform Jeopordizes Well Being of America's Children

Today the House of Representatives voted to attach to a budget bill multiple amendments that would prohibit funding for important health care reform provisions that benefit children and families.

Defunding health care reform would halt progress in enrolling at least 5 million children in health insurance and limit the ability of the federal government to protect patients, regulate premium increases, set up insurance exchanges and hold insurance companies accountable.

In addition, the budget bill contains deep cuts to federal programs that would impact the lives and health of America’s children, including a $210 million cut to the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant, which supports state and local programs serving women, babies, children and children with special heath care needs, and a $747 million cut to the WIC program, which provides supplemental food, health care referrals, and nutrition education to at-risk infant, children and pregnant women.

It’s crucial that children have access to affordable, comprehensive health care services. Let your legislator know that you don’t support legislation that jeopardizes the well-being of millions of America’s children.

Help! Major Budget Cuts Ahead

By Deirdre Byrne, Director of Policy, Children's Health Fund

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee released a budget bill to fund the government for the next year which contains major proposed cuts to programs that help children and families every day.  They are expected to vote on this measure THIS WEEK.  Included in the cuts are:

  • $1.3 billion CUT to health centers, ending recovery funding for community health centers, eliminating funding for increased demand of services grants meant to respond to the economic downturn and undermining the capacity of health centers to provide services to an estimated 11 million patients.
  • $210 million CUT to the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, which supports state and local programs serving women, babies, children and children with special heath care needs, to detect developmental delays and provide treatment early to avoid costlier treatment down the road.  This cut equals 32% of the program.
  • $530 million CUT to community development block grants, which help finance housing, sewer, streets and economic development in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, including housing for the homeless.

Though different than the budget presented by President Obama yesterday, this budget proposal is just as important as it will determine how money is spent through the remainder of this fiscal year.

It is extremely urgent that lawmakers hear from you about how these cuts will negatively impact your community.  Write your lawmaker now, let them know that you support these programs and realize the impact of these budget cuts in your community. 

Thanks for your help!!

New Health Reform Provisions to Help Kids Start Today!

by Caroline DeRosa, Senior Director, Policy and Advocacy, Children's Health Fund

Thumbs Up for New Health Provision to Help KidsToday, on the six month anniversary of the passage of health reform, several new health care provisions that greatly benefit children will begin to apply:

  • Eligible young people up to age 26 can stay on their parents’ health plan;
  • Insurers cannot impose lifetime limits on coverage of “essential health benefits”;
  • Insurers may no longer charge co-payments, deductibles or co-insurance for preventive services; and,
  • Children younger than 19 can't be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

Many children, especially those who are poor and underserved, often do not get the medical care they need. These children and their families face numerous barriers in accessing critically needed services—not having insurance coverage; being denied coverage because of a previous illness; or not having the money to pay co-pays and/or deductibles. This first wave of implementation of the health reform law will begin to chip away at these barriers and greatly benefit children who currently face overwhelming obstacles in getting comprehensive quality care.

Number of People in Poverty/Uninsured Rises in 2009

by Caroline DeRosa, Senior Director, Policy and Advocacy, Children's Health Fund

The U.S. Census Bureau released a few alarming statistics last week.  The first finding is that 43.6 million people, or 1 in 7, were in poverty in 2009, up from 39.8 million, or 13.2 percent, in 2008.  The second reported that the number of uninsured Americans jumped to almost 51 million in 2009, from 46.3 million uninsured in 2008. 

As we know all too well here at CHF, children living in poverty often do not get the medical care they need. Poor and underserved families face numerous barriers in accessing critically needed services, such as no insurance coverage or lack of transportation to get to the doctor.  Without access to regular health care, many children go without care for common ailments like asthma or cavities, which can lead to bigger and long term problems if left untreated. 

Statistics like these are an important wake up call for us all.  As the number of people living in poverty and those without insurance grow, the need for CHF's services grow. In addition, now, more than ever, it's essential to ensure that the critical pieces of health reform that were passed last year to help underserved children get care, are protected and not repealed.

Why Arizona Needs to Focus on Kids

by Deirdre Byrne, Director of Policy, Children's Health Fund

On September 20th, 2010, Children's Health Fund (CHF) is partnering with the Children’s Action Alliance and the Arizona Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics to hold a child health forum in Tucson, Arizona.

Children's Health Fund has two national network programs in Arizona, the Phoenix Children’s Health Project and the Southern Arizona Children’s Health Project.  While each program serves a unique patient population, they both deal with legislative decisions made at the state level, including budget cuts to important child health programs and supportive services on which patients and families depend.

Arizona has suffered more than most states in the current economic downfall.  Facing a $5.1 billion shortfall in 2010 (57.9% of the general budget), the state legislature passed and the governor approved the elimination of the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  However, due to the passage of health care reform, the state would have lost millions in federal aid with the elimination of CHIP.  In an early signal of how the federal health care reform law will interact with state health policy, the state re-instated the CHIP program. Looking forward however, the state will face a projected $3.1 billion budget shortfall in the coming fiscal year, meaning these programs will face funding cuts in the future.

The Health Reform Fight: Why It’s Not Over Just Yet

by Caroline DeRosa, Senior Director, Policy and Advocacy, Children's Health Fund

As a child health advocate, it was extremely satisfying to watch President Obama sign historic and far reaching health care reform into law earlier this year.  Since then, the question most often asked by colleagues at Children's Health Fund (CHF) has been “what’s next?” As it turns out, the process doesn’t end when a bill is signed and the “what’s next” in the implementation phase is just as important as the initial passage.

In order to be successfully implemented, the legislation that is passed must be further clarified with details and specifics through federal rules and regulations.  These regulations are released by federal agencies so that interested parties can comment and provide feedback to ensure that laws respond to real world concerns.  This phase is critical, because it makes certain that the provisions originally intended within the law are properly carried out. 

In the coming months and years, CHF will be monitoring federal regulations and providing our feedback to the government to ensure a resounding voice for children is heard in this lengthy and complicated process.  We will continue the fight to ensure that all kids, especially those served by our programs, will get all the health benefits and coverage that were intended by the health reform law.

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