It is a new day in America. We can finally hold up our heads in the company of other developed nations who afford all their citizens the right to health care. It is an especially good day for America's children and youth.
As a result of the votes taken in the House and Senate over the past historic week, we have significant reforms that will benefit our children in the following ways;
- The reform covers 31 million Americans and ensures health care coverage for children in the United States, including young people up to age 26. No child or youth will be denied services because of a pre-existing condition.
- Recognizing that children are not just little adults, this health reform will provide age-appropriate benefits in a medical home, where partnerships are established between individual patients, their physicians and their families. This model of care works for families. Child health advocates are thrilled to see new funding in Medicaid for more state medical home pilots as part of health reform. In addition to the medical home, all Bright Futures services -- the definitive standard of pediatric well-child and preventive care -- will be covered for children as an immediate benefit for no co-pay, no matter what type of insurance they have.
- Health care reform greatly improves children's access to care based on workforce support and appropriate payment rates. The new law offers improvements to the pediatric primary and subspecialty workforce through loan forgiveness, and for the first-time-ever, there will be a federal commitment to bring Medicaid payment in line with Medicare. This is a great step forward and will translate to more children being able to get the care they need from their pediatricians.
- The reauthorization of the Emergency Medical Services for Children is included in the health reform measures. This federal program ensures that all children and adolescents, no matter where they live, attend school, or travel, receive appropriate care in a health emergency.
As a nation, we have not come to this day easily. Throughout the country, we have had open dialogue about some of the deepest questions that face a democracy. We have worried about how to balance the rights and needs of all different demographic groups. We have realized that nothing good and meaningful comes without compromise and even sacrifice. But we have acknowledged that the path we were on was leading us the wrong way -- down an economic spiral that was bankrupting our families and businesses and breaking our national spirit. We acknowledged that despite having the most advanced health technologies and services that man has ever known, we have been operating with an overly expensive, highly dysfunctional health care system. We were spending pounds on cure and not even pennies on prevention.
But now there is a new day in America and we are setting a new course. President Obama, Senator Reid, Speaker Pelosi, and countless other courageous members of Congress, child health advocates and pediatricians have worked around the clock over the past year to speak up for the children who could not speak for themselves. They all deserve profound thanks.
As a parent, grandparent, pediatrician and life-long child health advocate, and most especially, as the leader of the American Academy of Pediatrics, I am incredibly grateful for the commitment and dedication to making this day happen. The AAP has been working toward access to health care for all children since its founding in the 1930s. This week's historic votes are testament to the persistence, wisdom and caring of so many people over a very long haul. This passage of health reform is a significant investment in the health and future of all our children. Thanks so much for a new day for America's children.
Judith S. Palfrey, MD, FAAP
President, American Academy of Pediatrics