The following commentary is fromMarian Wright Edelman, President of the Children's Defense Fund
WASHINGTON - 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!
Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children\'s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.