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Child Watch® Column: "Children's Health on the Chopping Block"

Release Date: April 22, 2011

Marian Wright Edelman

Like many parents, California mother Anne-Marie Skinner knows "accidents happen." Her active, athletic teenagers Constance and Lucas are both involved in a number of extracurricular activities, and both have unfortunately suffered sports-related injuries that required serious medical care. One of the worst accidents happened when a basketball hit Constance in the face, requiring an emergency room visit, an MRI, and follow-up care from multiple doctors, including a pediatric eye care specialist. Thankfully, both Constance and Lucas have been able to get the care they need because they are enrolled in Healthy Families, California's version of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)—low-cost health insurance for children, teenagers, and pregnant women. Healthy Families makes Constance and Lucas's care affordable for their family. Anne-Marie has already cut her family's budget back to bare bones in this economy, including spending less on buying food. "If it wasn't for Healthy Families I would be buried in a blanket of medical debt," she says.

Alicia Alferez faces a different challenge—keeping up with her child's chronic health condition. Her oldest son, 14-year-old Alexei, has severe asthma. Like Anne-Marie, Alicia is a California resident who relies on Healthy Families coverage for her three children. With his Healthy Families coverage, Alexei is able to access preventive care including a machine to administer medication to help him breathe and multiple prescription drugs to prevent and treat his asthma. Several times a year, Alexei still ends up in the emergency room. Last year Alexei suffered an asthma attack and fell to the ground while running in gym class, and was rushed to the hospital in an ambulance.

Healthy Families has made it possible for Alicia to manage Alexei's prescription drugs, doctor visits, and emergency room visits and helped Anne-Marie through Constance's eye injury. But in recent years, changes in the state budget for Healthy Families and California's Medicaid program, Medi-Cal—including significant premium and co-payment increases—have been making it harder for families to get critical health care services for their children. Another round of cost-sharing increases in the state's 2011-2012 budget will cause real and lasting hardship for families like the Skinners and the Alferezes including the difficult decisions they will face if the co-payment for an emergency room visit increases to $50 per visit.

These two families are among the millions around the country whose health coverage is "on the chopping block" twice over, once because of state budget cuts and a second time because of federal budget cuts. They all risk losing the affordable, comprehensive health coverage their children need to grow up healthy and strong. The U.S. House of Representatives approved an unfair and shortsighted budget that will assault vulnerable children and low income families. It would make deep cuts in Medicaid, shift more costs to states, and eliminate core protections for the 30 million children served by the program. In 2013 it would de-fund the successful and cost effective Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) these and many thousands of California families need. All this at a time when 50 million Americans, including more than eight million children, are uninsured. The House budget would repeal health reform that would reach an additional 32 million people and 95 percent of all children over the next few years. Children of color, who make up more than half of the children served by Medicaid, would fare worst and be placed at risk of preventable suffering, chronically poor health, and even death. And for what purpose? To pay for more tax cuts to the wealthiest individuals and corporations in America.

President Obama said this last week about the House budget for 2012: "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires. And I don't think there's anything courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don't have any clout on Capitol Hill. That's not a vision of the America I know." If this is not the America you want, stand up and speak up and say no!


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Here's what others have said:

Submitted by Kim at: December 11, 2011
I think it was interesting. The child care is really bad and it'ssad that nothing is changing. I hope things will get better in the new year.

Submitted by AF at: May 24, 2011
As a California public school teacher and a former child advocate in Chicago, I am saddened to see the decisions being made around CA child health & welfare. One of the concerns about CHIP, as stated on NPR, is that CA has a bad reputation for Dr reimbursement and therefore the Drs who previously served "Healthy Families" are reluctant to take the chidren's version of Medicaid. CA has only begun to see hard times - 2012 will be a tough year for educators & students of CA.

Submitted by goldenboy at: April 28, 2011
I enjoyed this article

Submitted by Missey at: April 26, 2011
Are there any hearts left on Captial Hill?

Submitted by Anonymous at: April 25, 2011
shame, shame on our government officials who listen to the crazy's right winger's who would rather save a few dollars off of the health of children. In a country as wealthy as we are that we do not have affordable health care for families/children I say shame, shame. I really think we need to have a straight across the board income tax with no "earned income credit", no exemptions/breaks/hidey holes for the rich, etc - just straight across the board to fund our government and health assistance for all

Submitted by Leslie at: April 25, 2011
We as a country should take care of the citizens, especially children and those in need. Our budget is a moral document, so people must demand the right priorities of legislators.

Submitted by jolu at: April 23, 2011
The corporate bullying and inhumane treatment of our own citizens is beyond ridiculous. The President is completely right. If we let this happen our nation will sign its own death sentence.

Submitted by Mary at: April 23, 2011
I'm in total agreement with President Obama! It's amazing that big money can actually make people believe that the Republican agenda is in their best interest!

Submitted by aggie pat at: April 23, 2011
I certainly disagree with giving all this money to the government and NOT to those who need it in order to live!!!

Submitted by Anonymous at: April 22, 2011
For years the GOP leaders have said that lowering taxes for millionaires and corporations, deregulation, weakening labor unions and cutting aid for needy children was somehow the way towards prosperity. Instead it has been the road to increased poverty, hunger and disease.

Submitted by com-sense at: April 22, 2011
maybe if the the the state union workers of California would agree to modest and sensible wage and benifit consessions like the private sector workers have, the state wouldn't be bankrupt and could afford a valuble program like Healthy Families

Submitted by Eric at: April 22, 2011
It is clear that funding for children's healthcare and insurance should not be cut. THESE CHILDREN ARE THE FUTURE FOR AMERICA AND THEREFORE FUNDING FOR HEALTH PROGRAMS SHOULD BE OFF THE TAX-CUT PACKAGE.

Submitted by Tessa at: April 22, 2011
I agree whole heartedly with Dr. Wright Edelman's column. The America that I want would think it totally unacceptable, even unethical, to grant tax breaks to the top earning individuals and corporations when over 20% of America's children go to bed hungry at night and millions more cannot get the health care they need. It is just wrong no matter what side of the political aisle you sit. Congress needs to get in touch with the "real" America and support CHIP and our President's Health Care Reform Act. Enough already!

Submitted by Annie at: April 22, 2011
Those in power on Capitol Hill are so far removed from the day to day life that the majority of Americans are living. It saddens me so to see the state our country is in because of them. Our most vulnerable populations always seem to get crushed in order to redeem promises to the money mongers. It disheartens me to say I am an American.

Submitted by Chee Wee at: April 22, 2011
Great information. More Americans need to be made aware of this.