Pediatricians Concerned Health Bill Would Reduce Kids’ Care

Rural Hospitals Also Could Be Impacted If Fewer People Are Insured

Day treatment room at American Family Children's Hospital
UW Health (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Several major health groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, oppose the U.S. Senate health bill, and one Wisconsin doctor says it would especially hurt children’s hospitals.

In Wisconsin, 492,000 children get health care through Medicaid, said Dr. Jeffery Britton, president of the Wisconsin chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The Sheboygan pediatrician said if children’s hospitals can’t pay the bills, it could affect all patients, not just those on Medicaid.

“If a major children’s hospital takes a big cut in the amount of revenue they have, it would be hard for them to provide the same level of services to the commercially insured patients,” Britton said. “I think that Medicaid cuts could easily destabilize the entire pediatric delivery system in the state of Wisconsin.”

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Britton also said rural hospitals could be hit hard under the Senate’s health plan if people don’t qualify for Medicaid or can’t afford private coverage.

“You can cap health care coverage but you can’t cap health care needs. The people are still going to need care,” Britton said. “So in a rural hospital, they’re going to face choices like do we deliver babies here anymore or not? Do we have an emergency room here anymore or not? Do we close and make people drive 50 miles to a bigger city? Those are all real possibilities in many areas of our state.”

Older and lower income people buying silver plan coverage on the federal marketplace would see the biggest increase in premiums even with subsidies, according to Kaiser Family Foundation.

In Wisconsin, 394,100 would be without coverage by 2026, according to the Center for American Progress. Most of those are on Medicaid. The remainder buy coverage on the individual market.

Wisconsin Republican Sen. Ron Johnson is considered a crucial vote in the U.S. Senate and has been very vocal with his concerns about the bill.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, said there will be a lot of pressure on the Republican Senator to vote for the bill.

“I want to commend Sen. Johnson. I think he’s been outspoken in his concerns about the process and about content. I hope he can stick to his convictions,” Pocan said in a teleconference Tuesday with Britton and the Center for American Progress. “There will be a tremendous amount of pressure put on him as there were on Republicans in the House and a lot of people wound up having to vote for a terrible bill.”

Republicans have decried premium increases under the Affordable Care Act and pointed to insurers leaving the marketplace in some states as reasons to repeal the law. Pocan would like to see the law fixed.

“We know where some of the problems are with the Affordable Care Act and how we can try to get that done in a bipartisan way. But this isn’t about checking a box that you got rid of Obamacare,” Pocan said. “This is about the lives and well-being of hundreds of millions of Americans. And I think that’s not being considered by the Senate Republicans or House Republicans or the President right now.”

On Tuesday, Senate GOP leaders abruptly delayed the vote on the health care bill until after July 4 recess.

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