To The Herald-Whig:
When I was in training to be a pediatric critical care doctor, I frequently came to Quincy to life-flight children from Blessing Hospital to St. Louis Children's Hospital.
I felt an intense responsibility toward these particular children because I am a Quincy native and still have strong ties to the area.
These kids often had complex medical problems like juvenile diabetes, asthma or heart conditions. They usually required long stays in the hospital, frequent follow-up visits and expensive care.
Fortunately, 97 percent of children in Illinois now have health insurance. As a pediatrician, I am proud to live in a state that prioritizes children's health.
Over 1.5 million kids rely on Medicaid, and another 325,000 on the Children's Health Insurance Program. Together, these programs cover 42 percent of our state's children. Unfortunately, this access to health care is threatened.
The American Health Care Act (AHCA) would harm these children and the millions more who rely on Medicaid.
A recent report by Georgetown University confirms that children and families in small towns and rural areas like the Quincy community rely more on Medicaid than kids in urban areas, and so cuts to Medicaid could be devastating to them.
The AHCA cuts federal Medicaid funding by $880 billion in the next 10 years, allows insurance plans to roll back coverage of pre-existing conditions and allows limits on lifetime benefits, which many of these kids exceed before leaving the hospital. These cuts would hurt Illinois greatly, as 69 percent of the total federal funds the state receives are for Medicaid. It would put our children's health at risk and leave the state to pick up the tab for the lost federal revenue by cutting benefits, or limiting the number of people who can enroll in Medicaid, jeopardizing access to care for those who need it the most.
This bill, currently in the Senate, is opposed by leading medical organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics. It is likely to soon be released and voted on without adequate time for review and debate.
I stand with the American Academy of Pediatrics, a group representing 66,000 pediatricians, in opposing the AHCA. I urge Congress to oppose the drastic cuts to Medicaid included in the AHCA. Our children are counting on us.
Dr. Deanna Behrens
Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics