• Article
  • February 1, 2019

Commentary: Preserve and Improve Medicaid for All Children

Children's hospitals must work to continue to protect this essential program.

By Kurt Newman, M.D.

If the 2018 midterm elections taught us anything, it's health care is a top priority for voters. Medicaid covers 73 million Americans at any point, with approximately 37 million children relying on Medicaid. Some politicians and the public think only those in low-income brackets rely on it for health care coverage. But those of us on the front lines in the nation's children's hospitals know there are many faces of Medicaid. We see the importance it has in the lives of well children, children in military families and children with complex medical conditions.

At Children's National, we serve children from local neighborhoods, regional military bases, and from across the U.S. The common trait throughout our health system is the support Medicaid provides to cover the preventive care we offer.

Without Medicaid, James, a healthy toddler at one of our primary care centers, may not maintain a current immunization schedule. Routine illnesses may become severe without access to pediatricians for routine health needs. Our team ensures his family knows how to keep him in good health, and Medicaid reduces the uncertainty of medical bills.

Another example is Sophia, a 14-year-old whose parents are active military. The family is covered by TRICARE, but they rely on one of Virginia's managed care Medicaid programs to supplement Sophia's benefits. She requires private home nursing care, seizure medications and specialized medical equipment, which would not be covered without Medicaid.

As chair of CHA's Board of Trustees, I look forward to joining you in efforts to preserve and improve Medicaid for children. We know every state faces budget constraints, and Medicaid for children continues to be at risk. As children's hospitals, we are positioned to advocate for children. Our ability to serve them depends on it. We are also positioned to demonstrate quality care for children—in primary care, in specialty care, and when they require tertiary and quaternary care. Our focus as a community of hospitals is twofold: improve care and improve policy.

We can demonstrate why Medicaid and children's hospitals are essential to all children. We achieved success last year to extend the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and reauthorize Children's Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME). Now it's time to focus on protecting one of the essential pathways for providing children with reliable, comprehensive health care.

Kurt Newman, M.D., is chair of CHA's Board of Trustees and president and CEO of Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Send questions or comments.