Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Op-Ed Columns

Why our children need health reform

Amid all the controversy over the new health-care reform law, there has been little attention paid to its crucial impact on children's health in this country. As a pediatrician, I have seen how this law helps many children in dire need.

The strides in child health enabled by the Affordable Care Act are too important to allow political rhetoric from those who would repeal or defund the law to undo its progress.

Under the Affordable Care Act, children with pre-existing conditions now can get health coverage without facing discrimination. Young adults can be covered under a parent's health insurance plan up to age 26.

Children can receive a comprehensive set of preventive-care services without co-payments. Private insurance companies no longer can decide to stop covering children or adults when they get sick. Insurance companies cannot impose lifetime dollar limits on coverage.

Each of these reforms provides essential health-care services for millions of children. Together, they mend many of our previous heartbreaking problems with child health in America, Ohio, and Toledo.

Asthma afflicts 10 percent of Ohio's children. They now have guaranteed access to the care they need to stay healthy.

Young adults in their early 20s notoriously used to fall through the cracks of the health-care system, receiving most of their care in hospital emergency rooms rather than during regular primary-care office visits. No longer.

Among the preventive-care services the health reform law offers are office visits for primary pediatric care. This vital care can mean not only financial savings, but much more important, also can mean the difference between a life-changing tragic diagnosis and a treatable illness.

The ban on insurance companies denying coverage of patients when they become sick or reach an arbitrary lifetime coverage limit is especially critical to children, who have their whole lives ahead of them.

Now my patient with Down Syndrome does not have to worry about running out of health insurance. Her family will never have to choose between putting food on the table and taking her to the doctor when she gets sick.

The reform law allows me to spend my time taking care of children with true emergencies. A child with a broken arm will have a shorter wait time and hospital stay because kids with colds and 24-year-old women who wonder whether they are pregnant can see their primary-care doctors instead of coming to the emergency room.

I practice in Michigan but would love to work in Toledo, where I live. Unfortunately, physician reimbursement by Ohio's Medicaid program traditionally has been so low that while there is a vital need for pediatricians in under-served areas such as downtown Toledo, there isn't the money to pay them.

Doctors who care for our most vulnerable population -- poor children -- cannot get jobs where they are needed most desperately. The health-care reform law is changing that with improved Medicaid payment rates.

I am proud to be an American because as a nation, we value what is right and good. The Affordable Care Act isn't perfect, but it will give our children the opportunity to become our future.

Let's not take that away from them.

Vidya Ramanathan, MD, of Toledo, is an emergency-room pediatrician.

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