The Medicaid safety net

Children's Advocacy NetworkFor so many Americans who lost their jobs and their insurance, Medicaid is an important safety net. Now imagine you lost both your job and your insurance benefits and your child gets sick, but you have the Medicaid safety net. So, you call your doctor, only to be told that your doctor’s office can’t see your child because he or she cannot see any more Medicaid patients. You are told this is because the state can’t afford to pay the costs for the services.

While this might seem like a dramatic example, this could have been a reality for many Americans. State Medicaid budgets throughout the country are struggling and without adequate funding, states are forced to make cuts to essential programs including funding for health care providers who serve kids covered by Medicaid.

These are challenging fiscal times. Fortunately, last week federal lawmakers took action and voted to extend enhanced Medicaid matching funds (FMAP). The extension, which runs through June 2011, provides critical funding for the Medicaid budget, which is crucial for hospitals such as Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. More than 50 percent of the children receiving care at Children’s Hospital and its clinics rely on Medicaid for health care coverage. The hospital cares for all kids in need, regardless of the family’s ability to pay. That is part of what makes us special, but it also is a challenge to maintain when Medicaid budgets are strained. Even with these enhanced dollars from the federal government, our costs for providing care are only partially paid.

Our Medicaid budget remains fragile, but there is no question that without these additional federal dollars, we would be at larger risk

Children’s Hospital and its advocates actively lobbied our federal delegation for support of this important provision. We can give a sigh of relief that they listened and helped bring critical funds back home to Wisconsin.

Do you want to learn how to be an advocate for children’s health care? Visit Children’s Advocacy Network.

-Michelle Mettner, vice president, Government Relations at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin.

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