03/08/2011 09:56 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

We Must Stop the Republican Attempt to Reduce Our Kids' Access to Health Care

This week House Republicans are extending their fight to weaken the health care law to children in school. Yes, that's right, children in school. At a hearing of the Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee this Wednesday, House Republicans will launch a new attack on the health care law by attempting to rescind all money made available for the construction of school-based health centers. The inclusion of funding for school-based health centers in the health care law is a valuable long-term investment in the health of our children, and attempts to eliminate this funding are a short-sighted action.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act included $200 million for the construction of school-based health centers through a new competitive federal grant program. The health care law marks the first time in which these centers have been specifically authorized to receive federal funding. To date, over 350 centers in states across the country have applied for the funding to construct or expand a school-based health center. This funding is a win-win for our local communities. It will create local construction jobs and build the centers that will create safe, accessible facilities for children to receive health care.

As a former school nurse, I know firsthand that our children cannot perform to the best of their abilities in the classroom if they do not have access to health care. Research also backs up the importance of these centers, as they have been shown to reduce obstacles to learning by helping to reduce student absences and identify students at risk for health and behavioral problems. School-based health centers also help combat health-related risks facing school-aged children such as school violence, injury, asthma, obesity and tobacco use. The care provided at these centers is individually tailored to the needs of each local community and helps ensure our children are healthy and ready to learn.

School-based health centers provide comprehensive and easily accessible preventive and primary health care services to approximately 2 million students in the United States. There are nearly 2,000 school-based health centers in the United States, including 176 in my home state of California, and funding for school-based health centers has long enjoyed bipartisan support in Congress. State budget cuts are hindering many vital health and education services and school-based health centers are no exception. All too often, these centers are the only access to health care for some children therefore we should be expanding them, not forcing them to shut their doors.

We know that rising health care costs are the main driver of our long term debt, and both parties agree on the need to slow health care spending. Our agreement on the need to achieve this goal makes the Republican attempt to eliminate funding for school-based health centers all the more troubling to me. School-based health centers are cost effective, providing an ideal environment to administer preventive health care to children. For children in Cincinnati enrolled in schools with a school-based clinic, the cost of hospitalizations for those children decreased by 85%, or nearly $1,000 per child. And a study by Emory University attributed school-based health centers to reductions in Medicaid expenditures related to inpatient, drug, and emergency room use.

Cutting the funding for construction of school-based health centers is a bad idea that will limit access to quality health care that we all, Republicans and Democrats alike, say every one of our children need and deserve.