AAP leads efforts to protect children’s access to health care
DevinMiller, Washington Correspondent
From the moment the 115th Congress took office this month and lawmakers began deliberating
how to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Academy has been leading the charge
in Washington to protect children’s access to health care.
At press time, new federal legislators were being sworn into office, with speculation
still surrounding the timeline and process for ACA repeal and replacement. The week new members of Congress were sworn in, the Academy sent a letter to Congress
urging them to protect the needs of children while considering any changes to the
ACA, reminding leaders that children are not little adults and have unique health
care needs. The letter outlined essential elements in the ACA that the Academy believes
any major changes to health reform must maintain or improve upon:
Access to pediatric care, including access to pediatric providers and pediatric subspecialists.
Pediatric appropriate benefits, including preventive care and essential health benefits.
Insurance coverage for children and families, including insurance market reforms, dependent coverage to age 26, affordable coverage,
Medicaid expansion and other innovations.
“We encourage Congress to build on its record of improving children's coverage and
provide long-term health care stability for children,” said AAP President Fernando
Stein, M.D., FAAP, in the letter. “The Academy supports proposals that invest in child
health and move towards achieving the goal of ensuring that all children have health
care coverage that meets their unique needs.”
The Academy also joined the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American College
of Physicians and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in sending
a letter to Congress, urging federal leaders to protect patients’ access to care,
as well as a broader coalition of children’s health groups whose message to lawmakers
focused on the need for any health reforms to build on progress improving children’s
access to health coverage.
No matter the outcome of the ACA repeal process, the Academy will be working with
lawmakers, their staffs and various coalitions to protect children’s access to affordable,
quality health coverage and to maintain the progress made to date.
In fact, AAP chapter leaders from every state will travel to Washington next month
to urge their members of Congress to prioritize children in their policymaking, especially
as they approach issues related to children’s access to health care. The momentum
behind these efforts will be maintained when more than 100 pediatricians come to the
nation’s capital for the AAP Legislative Conference in April. Visit www.aap.org/legcon for more information about the conference and to register.
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Unfinished business: What happens next?
Before adjourning, the 114th Congress was unable to pass legislation regarding two
AAP advocacy priorities: child nutrition reauthorization and child welfare reform.
Programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and
Children, the school meals program, the Child and Adult Care Food Program, and the
summer feeding program will continue to operate as Congress continues to fund them.
Unfortunately, Congress is unlikely to take up child nutrition reauthorization this
year as work will begin on the Farm Bill, which reauthorizes the Supplemental Nutrition
Assistance Program (SNAP). As these conversations begin, the Academy will be advocating
to maintain the current structure of the program, improve the program’s benefits,
reduce barriers to enrollment and protect the scientific integrity of nutrition standards
Child welfare reform
Funding for the child welfare system will continue to go to the states, with disproportionate
emphasis on funding foster care over services that help keep families together.
Although the AAP-supported Family First Prevention Services Actdid not pass in the 114th Congress, there may be opportunities to revisit its policies
as discussions of other health and social issues arise on the legislative agenda.
The Academy will continue advocating for policies that support families and prevent
the need for foster care.
To be notified of advocacy opportunities regarding SNAP or on behalf of children in
the welfare system, email firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate your interest in one or both of the issues.
From legislation to implementation: 21st Century Cures
While advocacy is most often thought of during the process of drafting and passing
legislation, the Academy also works with the federal agencies that implement a bill
after it becomes law to ensure it is working for children and families as intended.
The Academy will be working on implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act, which
was signed into law in the 114th Congress.
Under the new law, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is required to track and
report on the number of children enrolled in clinical trials. Although the agency
has had a formal policy since 1998 requiring the inclusion of children in trials,
it has failed to track and publish data on the numbers of children actually enrolled.
The Academy long advocated for NIH to collect this information. The data are needed
to ensure that children are benefiting from important scientific and medical advancements
so that pediatricians can better understand chronic childhood diseases and how they
persist into adulthood.
The NIH has six months from the law’s enactment to host a workshop on the issue. As
the leading champion of this issue, the Academy will be working with the agency to
ensure swift implementation so that children’s health can benefit from this provision
of the law as soon as possible.