• Article
  • February 8, 2017

Focusing the National Conversation on Children's Health

In 2017, protecting the nation's children will be critical.

By Kurt Newman, M.D.

In 2016, children's hospitals advanced meaningful legislative and regulatory progress on behalf of kids and families. For example, Congress passed the 21st Century Cures Act, which will create new ways to care for children with rare genetic diseases and strengthen mental health services.

We should celebrate these achievements. But we must also look ahead with pragmatism and sustained ambition. The current political uncertainty surrounding health care laws and policies raises questions, challenges and opportunities for children's health.

We must focus on defending Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which together provide health insurance coverage to more than 37 million children. Health care spending on children in Medicaid is a fraction of adult spending, and there is risk of cuts in pediatric funding as the new Congress considers reducing federal Medicaid support. This would be a devastating blow for America's children.

We have a window to educate Congress, the incoming administration and the public about how Medicaid and CHIP work together. Policymakers must understand the demands of children's health care and protecting funding is a smart investment. CHIP is set to expire this year, and Congress will be considering the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

We will work to protect Medicaid and extend CHIP through CHA's legislative advocacy efforts and coalition work with the Partnership for Medicaid, the Modern Medicaid Alliance, and children's health groups. The prospect of a full repeal or major changes to the law creates uncertainty.

Children's hospitals must fight for pediatric-specific “essentials” or “must haves” in any major federal health care effort that ensues. We must also be ready to support solutions to improve care and reduce spending. That means continuing advocacy for the Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program and the Advancing Care for Exceptional (ACE) Kids Act, which House and Senate champions are expected to reintroduce in 2017.

Finally, we must recommit to putting pediatric medicine at the center of federal research and quality initiatives. Pediatric research leads to life-changing discoveries. Without funding and focus on the needs of children, new pediatric treatments, therapies and cures risk being lost in the ongoing national push for adult-focused advances.

Our voices are stronger and more persuasive when we are united. For kids, families and America's future, let's work together to protect and improve children's health care.

Kurt Newman, M.D., is chair of CHA's Public Policy Committee and president and CEO of Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Send questions or comments to magazine@childrenshospitals.org.