The Graham-Cassidy proposal would jeopardize health care for children and families

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AMERICANS sent a clear message earlier this summer: Don’t mess with Medicaid. Yet the Graham-Cassidy health-care proposal does just that. So once again we urge Congress: Don’t mess with Medicaid.

Medicaid has earned broad bipartisan support since its inception in 1965 as a cost-effective safety net to keep children and families healthy. The program is critical to ensuring that children from low-income families and children with special health-care needs receive timely, quality health care. The Graham-Cassidy proposal would jeopardize health care for millions of children and families.

Our state has worked hard to cover all kids — currently, nearly all children in Washington (97 percent) have health-care coverage. Nearly half the children in our state have coverage thanks to our state’s Medicaid program, Apple Health for Kids. While children account for 46 percent of Medicaid enrollees in Washington state, they are only 18 percent of Medicaid expenditures.

Health-care reform that cuts Medicaid funding fails children. The Graham-Cassidy bill limits Medicaid funding to states through block grants and caps funding. This poses a significant threat to our state’s Medicaid program — it shifts the risk to the state and fails to allow for adequate program growth.

According to analysis by Avalare Health, if this bill passes, Washington faces a loss of $10 billion between 2020 and 2026. Because the block-grant funding appropriated in the bill ends after 2026, our state faces a staggering drop of $7 billion in 2027 unless new funds are appropriated in the future. Another independent study, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation, predicts that Washington would lose $6.4 billion between 2020 and 2026, and $6.3 billion when we hit the bill’s funding cliff in 2027. With fewer Medicaid dollars, Washington state will be forced to make significant cuts.

In addition to slashing Medicaid funding, the bill would eliminate Medicaid expansion, which extended coverage to 11 million low-income adults. This bill, or indeed any bill that leaves more families uninsured, is unacceptable.

As pediatricians, we know how important it is for children to receive routine preventive care. This care enables us to help diagnose, treat and prevent complex (and often costly) conditions as early as possible — which saves money and saves lives. Cuts to Medicaid mean these services for children could be significantly reduced or eliminated altogether. It also means that children’s hospitals across the country are at risk of losing millions of dollars per year, affecting their ability to care for kids.

We should not be reforming health care by taking it away from our most vulnerable citizens. We urge Congress to reject the Graham-Cassidy bill and work in a transparent, bipartisan manner toward health-care reform that cares for kids. With a commitment to protecting children and families, we should be working together to make meaningful improvements that lead to affordable, quality care for all.