As Budget Battles Are Waged, Tri-Cities Family Speaks Out for Preserving Children’s Access to Care
Johnson City, Tenn. – One Tri-Cities family is bringing their story of heartache and hope to Washington this month to help Congress understand the importance of protecting pediatric care in face of growing budget concerns. Henry Hance and his family are among those traveling to the nation’s capital to bring attention to potential new barriers to pediatric health care as part of the National Association of Children’s Hospitals (N.A.C.H.) Family Advocacy Day.
The Hance family learned the value of access to quality pediatric care through firsthand experience. Henry was only seven and a half months old when diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a rare form of pediatric renal cancer. The care Henry has received at Niswonger Children’s Hospital has been instrumental in helping Henry and his family through three separate occurrences of kidney tumors, and allowing him to be near his family while receiving life-saving treatment.
“Receiving care from the experts at Niswonger Children’s Hospital changed my family’s life,” said Grace Ann Hance. “It may be difficult for an outsider to appreciate how important children’s hospitals are to the families who need them. Like an elementary school is different than a college; you can’t just shrink things to make them fit. All children deserve to have access to these services. We hope sharing our story will help policymakers recognize the need to protect and preserve quality health care for kids.”
Although decades of advocacy have yielded strides that have improved children’s access to coverage, the infrastructure that ensures access to care has sustained serious blows in 2011. The Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2012 budget called on Congress to eliminate funding for the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education Program (CHGME), a federal program that helps children’s hospitals train 40 percent of all pediatricians and 43 percent of pediatric specialists.
In addition, proposals to slash funding for Medicaid, the largest health care program for children in the country, have gained traction. Congress is discussing proposals to cut the program’s funding by $1 trillion over the next decade and impose a cap on the amount the federal government can contribute.
“Nationally, half of the children who seek care at children’s hospitals are insured through Medicaid. Regionally this rate is even higher, 62 percent,” said Steven Godbold president and CEO of Niswonger Children’s Hospital “Although budget realities are stark right now, we should not seek to balance budgets at the expense of our youngest and most vulnerable patients.”
Survey data show that few people fully understand the extent to which Medicaid is a children’s program. Medicaid is most often associated with nursing home care or care for the disabled. However, data from children’s hospitals show that half of all child patients in children’s hospitals are covered under Medicaid and, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, one in three children overall is covered by Medicaid.
Five year-old Henry Hance is joining nearly 30 other children in championing access to pediatric care. The July 25-26 event includes one-on-one Congressional visits, a tour of Washington D.C. and a celebratory dinner to honor the child patients known as Family Advocacy Day “All Stars.”
About Mountain States Health Alliance
Mountain States Health Alliance, a not-for-profit health care organization based in Johnson City, Tenn., operates a family of hospitals serving a 29-county, four-state region (Northeast Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Southeastern Kentucky and Western North Carolina). MSHA offers a large tertiary hospital, several community hospitals, two critical access hospitals, rehabilitation, a children’s hospital, a behavioral health hospital, home care and hospice services as well as a comprehensive medical management corporation. Its 13,500 team members, associated physicians and volunteers are committed to its mission of bringing loving care to health care. For more information, visit www.msha.com.
About the National Association of Children’s Hospitals
The National Association of Children’s Hospitals – N.A.C.H. – is the public policy affiliate of the National Association of Children’s Hospitals and Related Institutions (NACHRI). N.A.C.H. is a trade organization of 140 children’s hospitals and supports children’s hospitals in addressing public policy issues that affect their ability to fulfill their missions to serve children and their families. N.A.C.H. fulfills its mission and vision through federal advocacy, collaboration and communication designed to strengthen the ability of children’s hospitals and health systems to influence public policy makers, understand federal and state policy issues, advance access and quality of health care for all children, and sustain financially their missions of clinical care, education, research and advocacy.
For more information on Family Advocacy Day, visit www.childrenshospitals.net or follow us on Facebook or Twitter, @speaknowforkids, #FAD11.