Patients at Children's Hospitals Participate in Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Week
WASHINGTON, DC — This week, child patients and their families from children's hospitals across the country will speak to their lawmakers about prioritizing children's health care, protecting Medicaid and supporting children's hospitals as part of the Children's Hospital Association's Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Week. These child patients with conditions ranging from ADHD to rare genetic disorders, are representative of millions of children who would benefit from legislative solutions tailored to their needs.
As a third-grader, 11-year-old Denver resident Kate Hartman was repeatedly bullied by classmates that led her to thoughts of suicide. Fortunately, she shared her feelings with her mother and was rushed to Children's Hospital Colorado for an emergency psychiatric evaluation. She now receives treatment for anxiety, ADHD and sensory integration disorder at Children's Hospital Colorado's Pediatric Mental Health Institute.
Like Kate, nearly one in five children and teens have at least one treatable mental health condition. Yet half of these young people don't receive needed treatment due to growing demand, limited coverage by public and private insurers and poor reimbursement to providers. The implications have lifelong effects on education, employment and health.
"The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the essential care children's hospitals and pediatric specialists provide to children in need of physical and mental health supports," said Mark Wietecha, president and CEO of the Children's Hospital Association. "Health care coverage through programs like Medicaid and access to specially trained doctors are necessary investments in children's health we're asking Congress to prioritize and act on."
Medicaid provides health coverage and benefits to one in three kids in the U.S. and covers more than 50% of children served by the nation's children's hospitals. With mounting job losses, more families will turn to Medicaid for health coverage to pay for physical and mental health care services for their children. In tough budget times, Medicaid is a target for state-level and federal cuts, jeopardizing health care for children when they need it most.
Children also need doctors trained to care for them and their unique needs from well-child visits to severe childhood illnesses such as pediatric cancers, asthma and cystic fibrosis. Funding for the training program for children's doctors, the Children's Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program, lags far behind the funding of training programs for physicians caring for adults. Children's hospitals in the CHGME program receive just 50% of what hospitals caring for adults receive for similar training programs – threatening the supply of doctors caring for our nation's children. As a step towards parity, children's hospitals are asking Congress to increase funding for CHGME.
The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded these impacts on children's hospitals. Standing down from providing essential patient care to supporting national surge planning has adversely impacted children and their hospitals. Relief funding for children's hospitals has been significantly lower than relief received by other hospitals, despite incurring billions of financial losses in 2020. Children's hospitals are asking Congress to include children's hospitals in future COVID-19 relief packages.
Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Week provides Congress a chance to hear directly from those who most depend on children's hospitals and will be hardest hit if children's health care is not prioritized. Kate Hartman is just one of millions of children whose very future is tied to the health of the nation's pediatric health care system today.