Med­i­caid works as safety net for ev­ery­one

We are all one med­i­cal cri­sis or cat­a­strophic event away from fi­nan­cial ruin.

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS - Wal­lace is pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Texas Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal in Hous­ton.

We

hear a lot about Med­i­caid in both the lo­cal and na­tional me­dia. It is of­ten­times clas­si­fied as a free pro­gram for those dis­in­ter­ested in work­ing and paying their fair share … mak­ing it one of the most mis­un­der­stood and mis­per­ceived pro­grams on the books.

With the re­cent elec­tion, many are left to won­der, what’s next — will the pro­gram be ex­panded to in­cluded a broader pa­tient pop­u­la­tion, or will the sta­tus quo re­main? Re­gard­less of what comes next, one fact re­mains the same — more and more chil­dren will con­tinue to need health care cov­er­age.

To­day, 1 out of ev­ery 11 chil­dren in the U.S. lives in Texas, and we ex­pect that num­ber to in­crease sig­nif­i­cantly over the next sev­eral years. Of those, a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber are unin­sured yet el­i­gi­ble for cov­er­age. Th­ese are the con­stituents who will be lost, who will fall through the cracks if Med­i­caid dol­lars are not pro­tected and fu­ture in­vest­ments are not made.

Med­i­caid is widely mis­un­der­stood, re­sult­ing in an un­fair stigma be­ing cast upon those chil­dren and fam­i­lies who uti­lize this joint fed­er­al­state pro­gram.

As the largest and most com­pre­hen­sive chil­dren’s health sys­tem in the na­tion, Texas Chil­dren’s Hospi­tal serves more Med­i­caid pa­tients than any other pe­di­atric hospi­tal in the state, and we are see­ing an in­ter­est­ing trend. The face of Med­i­caid is chang­ing.

Med­i­caid cov­ers 1 out of 3 chil­dren in our state and coun­try. The ma­jor­ity of th­ese chil­dren come from work­ing fam­i­lies whose in­come can­not keep pace with nor­mal liv­ing ex­penses. In the cur­rent eco­nomic en­vi­ron­ment where the un­em­ploy­ment rate is ris­ing and where em­ploy­ers are no longer able to pro­vide qual­ity health in­surance, it is be­com­ing in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for many fam­i­lies, in­clud­ing those in the mid­dle class, to make ends meet. It is harder for th­ese fam­i­lies to pro­vide the same level of health care cov­er­age for their chil­dren com­pared with pre­vi­ous years, neg­a­tively im­pact­ing the Hous­ton com­mu­nity.

It is im­per­a­tive that ev­ery­one across the state and na­tion un­der­stand the pur­pose of Med­i­caid — that it is not for peo­ple who do not want to work or are sim­ply look­ing for a handout. Med­i­caid is a safety net for ev­ery­one be­cause we are all one med­i­cal cri­sis or cat­a­strophic event away from fi­nan­cial ruin. It is a step­ping stone for peo­ple when the un­ex­pected oc­curs. It is for the mid­dle class, for the fi­nan­cially sta­ble, and even for those who once con­sid­ered them­selves up­per class.

If you have worked dur­ing your life, Med­i­caid is a pro­gram you helped fund and one that is avail­able to you and your chil­dren when you need it the most. But few know ex­actly what that means.

To be clear, Med­i­caid cov­ers more than just low-in­come fam­i­lies: it cov­ers chil­dren, preg­nant women, the el­derly and the sig­nif­i­cantly dis­abled. And, it will cover you if ever nec­es­sary.

Cut­ting Med­i­caid would be dis­as­trous for this coun­try. With­out the safety net of Med­i­caid and, sim­i­larly, the Chil­dren’s Health In­surance Plan, chil­dren would lack even the most ba­sic health ser­vices. It would dis­place scores of fam­i­lies and chil­dren into a world of med­i­cal un­cer­tainty.

Cut­ting Med­i­caid re­duces ser­vices for fam­i­lies with chil­dren with spe­cial needs, many of whom re­main on pri­vate in­surance, though the as­tro­nom­i­cal costs of their daily care would be fi­nan­cially de­bil­i­tat­ing with­out sup­port from Med­i­caid. A cut to Med­i­caid would im­pact chil­dren who may never have to use it be­cause count­less pro­grams and ini­tia­tives are made pos­si­ble as a re­sult of Med­i­caid and its as­so­ci­ated re­search.

The sim­ple truth is that our fed­eral and state gov­ern­ments save money by in­vest­ing in health care. Chil­dren who grow up with reg­u­lar health ex­am­i­na­tions, im­mu­niza­tions and care for child­hood ill­nesses are more likely to be­come adults who are healthy and pro­duc­tive tax­pay­ers. Treat­ment in hospi­tal emer­gency rooms cost up to seven times as much as a sim­ple of­fice visit. Slash­ing fund­ing not only hurts Med­i­caid re­cip­i­ents but also ad­versely im­pacts key pro­grams and ini­tia­tives that ben­e­fit all chil­dren.

We must re­main fo­cused on the chil­dren and make sure that ev­ery child has ac­cess to qual­ity health care. As adults, it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity to pro­tect our chil­dren, to pro­tect all chil­dren. In­vest­ments in our chil­dren’s health are in­vest­ments in our so­ci­ety’s fu­ture.

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