Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Congressional Briefings Highlight the Role of Medicaid in Health Coverage for Children from Diverse Population

From left to right: Mark Wietecha, Nat’l Assoc. of Children’s Hospitals; Dr. O. Marion Burton, Immediate Past President, American Academy of Pediatrics; Joan Alker, Co-Director, Georgetown University Center for Children and Families; Dianne Malley, Mother of Carissa Malley, a child with special health care needs; and Carissa Malley, front and center.

"This is a story of Medicaid working. For us, Medicaid covered services that our private insurance didn't, and that are essential for Carissa's health."

Dianne Malley with her daughter Carissa whose special health care needs are cared for by Medicaid, presenting at a Congressional briefing on the role of Medicaid in children’s health care, Nov 29, 2011

Washington, D.C., November 30, 2011: On Tuesday, November 29, 2011 two briefings were held for Congress, one in the Senate and one at the Capitol, to highlight the importance of the Medicaid program in serving diverse populations of children. The briefings were sponsored by a collaboration of health care organizations that serve children and families, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Family Voices, the March of Dimes, Georgetown University Health Policy Institute Center for Children and Families, and the National Association of Children’s Hospitals. Over 100 people were in attendance at the Senate briefing, and the briefing at the Capitol was also full.

Panelists included:

· O. Marion Burton, MD, FAAP, Immediate Past President of the American Academy of Pediatrics;

· Joan Alker, Co-Director, Georgetown University Center for Children and Families; and

· Dianne and Carissa Malley, Parent and Child with Special Health Care Needs.

The panel was moderated by Mark Wietecha of the National Association of Children’s Hospitals.

Although children make up more than half of all Medicaid enrollees, they account for less than a quarter of all Medicaid spending. In addition, while Medicaid functions as a critical safety-net for the increasing number of children living in poverty today, it also protects families from bankruptcy when they have a child with extensive medical needs, such as a premature newborn or a child with a serious illness or disability. Chronic conditions such as these force thousands of families to the brink of financial solvency each year and without Medicaid, it is likely that either their child would go without the care that they need or the family would be left destitute.

As an example, Dianne Malley noted:

“Our pharmacist has a son with special health care needs who is on Medicaid, which has kept his family from being homeless.”

The briefing explored the importance of Medicaid for the various populations of children, pregnant women, and their families who must rely on this program for their health and well-being. The speakers also discussed opportunities for Congress to protect this vital program during these times of financial austerity.

Dr. Marion Burton, immediate past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who now practices in South Carolina, commented:

“If we're going to reduce debt burden we need to raise healthy kids who will live long productive lives…. I used to see 1-2 families a month who lost insurance due to lost jobs. I now see 1-2 families a week…. In my practice, 40% of the kids I care for are on Medicaid…. Medicaid invests in kids' health from the ground up through essential screenings, diagnosis & treatment.”

Dr. Joan Alker, Co-Director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF), noted that six states, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, New York, and Texas, account for more than half of all uninsured kids. CCF has just released a report on Children’s Health Insurance Coverage in the United States from 2008 – 2010. See This report documents the importance of Medicaid in filling in the gaps in children’s health care coverage. It states:

Despite the rise in both unemployment and child poverty over the past few years, the uninsured rate for children nationally has declined from 9.3 percent to 8.0 percent. The success of Medicaid and CHIP [The Children’s Health Insurance Program] in reducing the number of uninsured children despite the weak economy is a rare piece of good news….

Dianne Malley summed up the conversation at the briefing by saying:

“I can honestly tell you we would not be standing here today without Medicaid. Medicaid has saved us from bankruptcy."


For more information please contact:
Melanie Rubin, Director of Communications, National Family Voices,, 1-888-835-5669,

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