Alliance Joins Coalition of Children Advocates to Urge Congress to ‘Do No Harm’

By John Schlitt, President, School-Based Health Alliance

Today, the House votes on whether to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The House bill proposes to cut 25 percent of Medicaid’s budget, eliminate the guarantee that Medicaid will provide needed services, and make Medicaid less accessible for those who need it most.

On March 22, on behalf of school-based health care providers across the country, the School-Based Health Alliance joined a growing coalition of associations and organizations representing children’s advocates, health care consumers, and providers who are urging Congress to do no harm to our children.

A letter to Senate and House leaders signed by hundreds of organizations warns Congress to keep the needs of children front and center as changes to our country’s health care system are debated. The co-signers are united in their aim to maintain and expand the gains to children’s coverage and their access to high-quality health care services. For more than 50 years, Congress has kept its commitment to low income children through the open-ended entitlement program, Medicaid, which assures the highest standard of coverage for preventive, diagnostic, and treatment services.

The American Health Care Act, with its provisions for capped federal funding to Medicaid, threatens the considerable progress we’ve made to create more equitable access to health care for socially disadvantaged families and narrow the gap of unjust outcome disparities attributable to race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. With an estimated loss of $800 billion in federal Medicaid contributions over 10 years, states no doubt will be faced with difficult decisions about who’s eligible for coverage, the scope of benefits, and the level of provider compensation. Stress on state budgets is also likely to result in deep cuts to public investments in the essential providers—community and rural health centers, prenatal and family planning clinics, and school-based health centers—who comprise our communities’ health care safety net. Beneficiaries and providers both lose under the current proposal.

Our unified message to Congress is:

  • Preserve and protect Medicaid’s funding structure that guarantees poor and low-income children and children with disabilities coverage for the services and treatment they need to survive and thrive.
  • Protect the ACA’s Medicaid expansion and continue coverage for low-income parents.

The consequences of restructuring Medicaid are potentially grim, as the letter concludes. “Any changes that move backwards and make children worse off by depriving them of comprehensive and affordable child-appropriate coverage will jeopardize not only their futures but the nation’s future economic and national security.”
Do no harm.

Is that really an acceptable standard for the United States? A great nation affords ALL children and adolescents, no matter their zip code, limitless hope and opportunity to be healthy and thriving citizens.

On this measure, the American Health Care Act fails.

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