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This week, medical directors from Children’s Health Fund projects across the country are meeting in Washington, D.C., to speak with legislators about the human costs associated with cutting health care benefits for children. With new legislation threatening to do just that, CHF is launching into action to protect the benefits that children need to grow up healthy.
The health care reform legislation passed last year protects, through “maintenance of effort” (MOE) provisions, gains achieved for children in public health safety-net programs. In practical terms, that means that through 2014 states must maintain their Medicaid eligibility standards as they were in place prior to the passage of health care reform. In fact, the MOE provisions further require states to maintain their pediatric Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) standards through 2019.
Unfortunately, under the current recession, states are looking for ways to reduce Medicaid and CHIP spending – at a time when the need for public health insurance is even greater due to loss of jobs and insurance coverage. In May, the State Flexibility Act was introduced in Congress, with the intent of repealing the MOE requirements for Medicaid and CHIP. Passage of that legislation would allow states to reduce coverage to mandatory federal minimum levels of Medicaid and scale back or eliminate their CHIP programs – a devastating prospect to the 35 million children covered by Medicaid and CHIP.
Similarly, the House of Representatives passed a budget bill this year that would fundamentally change the nature of Medicaid by converting it to a block grant. If adopted as law, the legislation would repeal the expansion of Medicaid under the health care reform law and cap Medicaid spending annually. States would be allotted funding up to a set amount, rather than adjusting spending according to actual costs.
With states limited in their ability to reimburse hospitals and providers, they likely would be forced to make up the difference by capping enrollment, cutting eligibility, limiting mandatory benefits, providing less extensive coverage or lowering provider reimbursements. Of particular concern is the possibility that states would drop the Early and Periodic Screening Diagnostic and Treatment benefit, which screens and detects health and developmental conditions early in childhood to allow for timely treatment.
Through these harmful pieces of legislation, millions of children could be at risk of not having access to health care services. As we well know, uninsured children have higher rates of delayed care, unmet medical needs and unfilled prescriptions. And they are less likely to have a yearly well-child visit.
That’s why Children’s Health Fund’s medical directors are mobilizing on Capitol Hill this week. It’s important that legislators hear from their constituents – and the experts in their communities on children’s health care – why access to health care services is so important. Our doctors see firsthand the difference that comprehensive, continuous health care makes in a child’s life.