bearing children

Congress Is Threatening Kids’ Health Care

Jimmy Kimmel holding his son Billy. Photo: ABC

Yesterday morning, I took my son to the doctor. We met with a new care team and set long-term goals for his health. Ideally, my son’s BMI would be about 50. It’s currently six. The visit was covered by an employer-provided insurance plan, one that’s new to us. The shift in health-care plans did not go as smoothly as we would have liked.

But we’re lucky that my son has insurance, imperfect as it is. The switch in coverage, though, had real consequences: Thanks to some miscommunication and health-care bureaucracy, we had to redo the process of requesting a notoriously hard-to-get drug. Without this drug, my son is vulnerable to RSV, a respiratory virus especially prevalent in colder months. It’s December, and he won’t get the drug until Wednesday.

Because my son has complex health-care needs, any shift or change in his health-care coverage could have consequences like this — beyond the hours it takes his parents on the phone, more than the extra money we have to pay. Any change or gap in coverage could mean he doesn’t get the care he needs, when he needs it. It means he could get very sick.

Millions of children covered by a popular, traditionally bipartisan-supported health-care program are currently at risk for this kind of consequence. Isn’t it insane that it’s relevant to mention the bipartisan support for a program that helps children stay healthy?

Last night, Jimmy Kimmel held his young son Billy, recently recovered from heart surgery, while pleading — again — with our country to do better for the millions of children reliant on our government to make decisions about their lives. In this case, that number is 9 million, which is approximately how many children are covered by CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program intended to cover low-income children whose families make too much for Medicaid but don’t have access to health care. In September, Congress let the program expire. Now, states are scrambling to figure out what to do to come up with funding; in at least 11 states, funding will run out by the end of January. Colorado has sent letters to families covered by CHIP to warn them they could lose coverage, and West Virginia has already approved a plan to close its program.

Unless Congress funds CHIP, children like my son — with long-term, complex health needs, about 2 million of those covered by CHIP — will have their care interrupted. Babies won’t get shots. Treatment plans will go awry, and health goals will not be met. Healthy kids will have less access to preventative health care and maintenance, which means healthy kids could turn into sick kids.

What else is there to say, at this point? Yet again, a bunch of adults are threatening children’s lives. It’s difficult to comprehend why or how this came to be, but here we are, pleading for the welfare of children. Look around at the coverage of CHIP, at the coverage of the failed GOP health-care bills earlier this year: We use the wordcrisis.” This is absolutely a crisis, the most shameful kind, because it can be prevented.

The only health-care-related crisis involving America’s children should be medical. Your child is sick, and the problem is getting your child better. A country with means like ours should be without financial or political barriers to helping any child get care. And yet: We’re facing off against a bunch of adults with financial and political concerns that are getting in the way of our children’s care.

I can’t imagine explaining this to a child: Once upon a time, some grown-ups came up with a way to help make sure more kids could go to the doctor. But then, some other grown-ups stopped caring? They had other concerns? They just couldn’t decide? Why did we have to come up with a way for more kids to go to the doctor in the first place? Sorry, kids, Mommy doesn’t understand this story.

Health-care advocates are encouraging people to call their representatives to urge them to reinstate’s CHIP’s funding.

Congress Is Threatening Kids’ Health Care