My thoughts on federal health reform

MandellEarlier this week, we shared on our Thrive blog some comments about the new health reform legislation by Judy Palfrey, MD, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and a long-time pediatrician at Children’s Hospital Boston.

Reactions to the post were both positive and negative when it was shared on our Facebook page, with some people wondering why we would share our “political” views. First let me say that I think it’s important to distinguish views about political candidates and political parties from “policy” views about things that are good or bad for children and the providers who care for them. I also think it’s important to recognize and give voice to the incredible breadth of knowledge and expertise we have here at Children’s. Dr. Palfrey has spent her entire career working on child advocacy issues and is nationally recognized on the subject, and we’re fortunate to be able to share her knowledgeable voice on our blog.

There are a lot of elements in this legislation, so I’m going to focus on a few issues with relevance to pediatric patients. We have a proud history of getting behind efforts that enhance kids’ access to health care and health coverage, including long-time support of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a government insurance program that has provided medical coverage to millions of children in the United States since it was enacted in 1997.

healthreformDespite these efforts, today there are nearly 12 million children in this country who don’t have health coverage, which is unfathomable. One key feature of health reform legislation is that CHIP will be expanded to cover more children and will be extended through at least 2015.

In addition, the bill contains several positive things related to pediatric health, namely:

  • Insurance companies can no longer deny coverage for any child with a pre-existing condition.
  • There are no lifetime limits or exclusions on insurance coverage.
  • Young adults can now stay on their parents’ insurance plans until they’re 26 (if you’re trying to get your grown child to finally move out of the house, you might not think this is a good thing…).
  • Establishment of a loan forgiveness program to encourage young doctors to go into pediatric subspecialty fields (like the treatment of epilepsy, for example). The importance of this can’t be understated; there is a shortage of pediatric sub-specialists in this country that won’t be addressed without significant changes to the system.

The new legislation will of course not solve all of the country’s health care challenges. But it is a start. It’s a commitment to bring more Americans under the umbrella, to help keep illness at bay and provide some protection when it strikes. Most importantly from my perspective, it protects more of this country’s children so they can go on to become healthy, productive adults.

Read a time line of the health reform bill process and when changes could go into effect.