As a pediatric critical-care physician, I routinely care for children whose families’ lives are altered by an unexpected tragic event. Children born prematurely or with congenital abnormalities, severe infections, injuries due to motor vehicle accidents, accidental gun violence, cancer, organ failure — all of these children have had their lives turned upside down, and every one depends on health insurance. Without Medicaid coverage, an unexpected illness would put most South Carolinians, including my family, into financial crisis.
Thankfully, Medicaid is there when private insurance is not, covering pediatric services such as developmental, vision and hearing screening for children. Medicaid covers lifesaving immunizations that often prevent children from needing intensive care, as well as vital services to military families, ensuring that children whose parents are sacrificing so much for our country do not go without care.
Children with health insurance are more likely to seek care when they need it and more likely to attend school, graduate from high school and go to college; they pay more in taxes, and become healthier, more productive citizens than their uninsured peers.
Children are not the cost-drivers for Medicaid. Medicaid is the single largest payer for children’s health care nationally and in South Carolina, providing cost-effective access to care for 661,728 children, or 60 percent, in South Carolina. While some qualify for Medicaid because they live in low-income families, many others qualify due to the severity of their illness.
U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott have to decide how to vote on a bill that makes severe cuts to Medicaid funding, which would harm our state and our children who depend on Medicaid. Under a capped funding proposal, our state would receive a fixed amount of money and be responsible to make up the rest. This would likely lead to cuts in the number of people enrolled and cuts to the coverage. I urge our federal leaders to keep the needs of America’s children at the forefront as they consider changes to our health-care system. Our children and families deserve peace of mind, knowing they have access to reliable coverage.
Elizabeth H. Mack, M,D.