Changes to Medicaid funding could have a profoundly negative impact on children’s health care.

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-AS discussions continue to swirl around the future of our nation’s health-care system and the American Health Care Act (AHCA), it’s vital we do not forget about the well-being of those who represent the future of our nation — our children.

Medicaid is the most critical health care program for our country’s youth, and we at Seattle Children’s are deeply alarmed about the proposed changes to Medicaid that would disproportionately impact our children.

As the single largest health insurer for children, Medicaid allows more than 30 million children in the country and nearly 800,000 children in Washington state to access the medical care they need. More than 40 percent of those covered by Medicaid are children, yet they only account for 20 percent of the costs. And at Seattle Children’s, about 50 percent of the patients we care for from our four-state referral region rely on Medicaid for health-care coverage.

But beyond the numbers, the real impact is seen in the children with complex medical conditions who we serve each day. It’s seen in the baby who is in desperate need of a new heart, the toddler fighting leukemia in hopes that she may be able to celebrate her fourth birthday and the teen who often has to battle for air due to cystic fibrosis. For them and many of the children who walk through our doors, access to health care is not a luxury; it’s a matter of life and death.

Beyond those in need of lifesaving care, Medicaid also plays an essential role in ensuring children from low-income families can access medically necessary care that keeps them healthy and out of the hospital, such as well-child visits, immunizations and dental services. This ongoing preventive care is vital for children to grow into thriving, contributing members of our community.

While some across the country may not understand the vital role that Medicaid plays in the lives of so many children, I am proud to say that we in Washington state get it.

Having moved to Seattle in the last few years from the Midwest, I have been impressed to learn how the state has been a leader in seeking to improve the health of our children for decades because of dedicated, strong leadership in Olympia and Washington, D.C. The leadership from elected officials on both sides of the aisle, staunchly advocating along with us for child health, sets our state apart. I also applaud the commitment the state has made to children’s health through the Apple Health for Kids program.

However, the reality is that this program also depends significantly on a federal match of Medicaid funding to continue.

As we face possible changes and indiscriminate cuts to Medicaid that would very likely decrease the number of children covered, we must stand together and urge our leaders in D.C. to continue the tradition of fighting for the health and well-being of children irrespective of their condition, disease or parents’ financial status. Any reforms must build on the achievements of our state, not set us back, and provide access to the medical care that meets the needs of all children, including those with complex medical conditions.

Together, we must put a spotlight on the vital needs of our country’s children within the health-care-reform debate. Together, we must work toward solutions to ensure our nation’s youth can thrive, with better health and brighter futures. After all, they truly are our future.