We must stand up for kids. They belong at the front of the line.
By Mark Wietecha
This year, we engaged in a full-out legislative war over Medicaid's future, the program sponsoring health care for nearly 33 million children. The alphabet soup of policy proposals ranging from the AHCA to the BCRA and HCFA had one thing in common: big cuts in funding for children in Medicaid.
To make matters worse, large numbers of legislators in Washington were unaware of the role of Medicaid in child health, or they didn't step up and defend children when their votes were counted. How is it possible we have come to this as a nation: cutting children's health care when children are our future?
Our nation's investments in children's health, particularly in their earliest years of life when the foundations of their adult health are set into place, have proven returns. But beyond economics and social productivity, taking our best care of children is our sacred duty as human beings.
Each child is a promise, an opportunity to deepen the compassion, creativity and love in our families, our communities, our nation and our world. We have no higher calling than to look out for the next generation. We know what children need; it's not a complicated or expensive set of requirements. All children should receive:
- Health care coverage and access to the full range of pediatric programs, providers and support necessary to ensure they grow up with a shot at a healthy adult life
- Pediatric-appropriate benefits and services because children's needs are different from adult needs, and they should be supported as the distinct population they are
- Dedicated and accountable funding of their programs, ensuring the money legislators allocate for children's health is spent on their needs and gets the job done
A lot of work has been done in the field on how we can improve child and family health and well-being; we're not prioritizing the programs and budget needed to make this happen. As we look to the future, we must shift our cultural priorities and put children at the front of the line where they belong.
This is where our work lies in the coming years—putting children first. We must ensure society and legislative leaders serve alongside us in this effort.
We've got work to do!
Mark Wietecha is president and CEO of Children's Hospital Association. Learn more in "The New Importance of Children in America" report on how investments in kids affect the nation's economy.