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Saving Medicaid ­– An urgent SOS

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN | 6/27/2017, 11 a.m.
This is an urgent SOS. Right now, Republican senators are working behind closed doors on their own version of the ...

Children’s Defense Fund

This is an urgent SOS. Right now, Republican senators are working behind closed doors on their own version of the terrible American Health Care Act passed by the House of Representatives in early May that would rip away health coverage from 23 million people. They plan to vote on a Senate bill just before they leave Washington for the July 4 recess. We can’t tell you everything that’s in it because Senate leadership is keeping its bill secret and doesn’t plan to reveal it until just before they vote. But we know it’s bad – ending Medicaid as we know it. Your help is needed right now to keep senators from moving forward with this terrible health plan! More than 50 years of progress made in expanding and improving comprehensive child-appropriate health coverage for children across America hangs in the balance. Everybody who cares about children needs to mobilize as you have never mobilized before and raise a ruckus to save the children’s health care safety net.

When Medicaid was first created in 1965, it provided children with a range of services necessary to treat acute and long-term health conditions, but there was no pediatric- and development-specific benefit. A 1964 government study found 50 percent of military draftees were rejected as a result of poor physical and mental health that could have been diagnosed and successfully treated in childhood and adolescence. The realization that children’s health was a national security issue led to a sea change for children. In 1967, Medicaid added the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment benefit for children up to age 21 to meet their unique and developmental health needs, guaranteeing children a full range of comprehensive primary and preventive care and access to all medically necessary health and mental health services.

Since then, we have been striving to live up to the promise of ensuring all young people are able to reach healthy adulthood – laboriously trying to expand coverage to more children thousands by thousands, millions by millions, state by state. Today, thanks to Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program and the Affordable Care Act, 95 percent of children in America have health coverage – a historic high. Medicaid has evolved to be an essential part of the coverage system for children, ensuring 37 million children the health coverage they need to survive and thrive, including 40 percent of all children with special health care needs, and covering more than 40 percent of all births. Medicaid plays a critical role for children with special health care needs — for example, providing services throughout childhood to an infant born with a heart condition or a child with autism. For families struggling to find the financial resources needed to care for their children with disabilities, Medicaid is a lifeline and often the only viable source of financing for their children’s extensive and expensive health care needs. For some children with complex health conditions, Medicaid supplements private health coverage to ensure them access as they grow to needed specialized medical equipment and devices such as hearing aids and wheel chairs. Medicaid is also a valuable source of preventive services, helping children get the well-child visits and screenings they need to support healthy development and prevent expensive complications later.