Both sides of debate should agree on medical care for children

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The Affordable Care Act was the major accomplishment of the Obama administration, and dismantling it has been the focus of the Trump administration so far.

The federal government issued a 10-page memo Thursday with guidelines to allow states to test programs to require some Medicaid enrollees to work as a condition for coverage.

Children and people being treated for opioid abuse are among those who would be excluded, and things like job training, volunteering or caring for a close relative could be counted as “work.”

The plan will probably be welcomed by Gov. Pete Ricketts in Nebraska and attacked by those farther to the left, including patient advocacy groups who are likely to file a lawsuit.

The Obama administration turned down several state requests to add a work requirement, and 10 states have applied for a federal waiver to add a work requirement.

There seems to be more bipartisan support for programs providing healthcare for children, although struggles over the budget have cast doubt on them as well.

The Children’s Health Insurance Program covers 9 million children across the country, and funding technically ran out Oct. 1.

Leftover funds have kept the CHIP program operating for now, but half of the states were projected to run out of money entirely by the end of January, leaving 2 million children at risk.

Congress passed a temporary reprieve last week, allocating $2.85 billion for six months, back-dated to Oct. 1 so it will run out at the end of March.

While Nebraska is likely to welcome a work requirement for Medicaid coverage, curtailing medical services for children would be a serious mistake for our state.

While the overall survival rate for childhood cancer has climbed from 10 percent 40 years ago to nearly 90 percent today, for rare childhood cancers, 12 percent of children do not survive.

The picture is not good for Nebraska, where pediatric cancer kills more children than any other disease.

Overall, it ranks second only to accidents as the leading cause of death for children in Nebraska.

Nationally, Nebraska ranks fifth in incidence rates per capita for childhood cancer, and first in death rates for childhood cancer.

While the future and extent of governmental programs is in doubt, there is a private nonprofit organization, the Pediatric Cancer Action Network, that is stepping forward to help families facing a child’s cancer diagnosis.

“I have lived through this nightmare myself and know first-hand how overloaded a family is upon diagnosis,” said Gary Peters, vice president of PCAN.

The organization has helped pay utility bills, car payments and housing, but also medication and, sadly, final expenses.

While activists and politicians debate how many and what kinds of services government programs should provide, there should little debate over making sure children have the lifesaving treatment they need.


Find out more about PCNAN here.

Find out more about pediatric cancer in Nebraska here and here.

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