Can We Afford to Leave Children’s Issues on the Sidelines of the Health Reform Debate?


Aimee Ossman, Director of Medicaid and State Policy Analysis, National Association of Children’s Hospitals
As our national leaders debate health care reform, there must be a focus on children. The Senate Finance Committee has held two roundtable discussions highlighting the delivery of health care and coverage. In both of these roundtables there was a lot of discussion of general health reform concepts, but no real discussion of  how children’s health care needs will be addressed. As a nation can we afford to leave children’s issues on the sidelines?
I am director of Medicaid and state policy analysis for the National Association of Children’s Hospitals (N.A.C.H.) and have worked on children’s health policy issues most of my career. I am also a mom to two energetic young boys — Owen, 7 and Carter, 3. 4311_1007808730751_1690921310_9151_2423790_n.jpgknow from my professional work but also because I am a mom how important health care is for children.  Children who do not have access to health care are more likely to miss school which can negatively affect educational achievement. Many adult chronic conditions originate in childhood. A child’s ability to access preventive and needed health care services when they are young can impact their long term health and their quality of life well into adulthood. Without access to health care coverage, children often delay needed medical care and miss well-child visits.
As Uwe Reinhardt stated in a recent New York Times editorial, we need to treat our children as “national treasures.” If we treat our children as treasures, then surely they should have access to high quality health care. This will benefit families across the country, but also our society as a whole.

For these very reasons, N.A.C.H. together with five national partners, the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children’s Health Fund, Children’s Defense Fund, First Focus and the March of Dimes, has launched a campaign to raise voices for children in the health reform debate. The Speak Now for Kids campaign’s goal is to ensure that our nation’s leaders focus on children when they take action on health reform. Anyone can go to the campaign Web site and upload a story, picture or video that will be shared with Congress and the Obama Administration.  In a little over one week, more than 3,000 people have signed up as Champions for Children’s Health and nearly 500 individual video, photo and written testimonials were posted on the Web site. The campaign also has 1500 member supporters on Facebook.
Many of my friends and family not familiar with the intricacies of health policy ask me why including children in the health care debate means so much to me since I have private health insurance coverage for my kids. It is important to me because I believe that Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program are an important safety net for many families and would be there for my family if we needed them. It is important to me to support the physician workforce for children so that all children can have access to the specialty care they need when they need it. It is also important to me to improve the quality information available so that when children need health care their parents have the information required to make educated decisions. Children have a lot to gain in health reform, but they also have the most to lose if health reform does not address their needs.
That is why I believe making sure that children have a voice in health reform is the right action to take. Why is it important to you that children’s needs be included? Please share your story and add your voice to the many on