A look at pediatrician advocacy and the American Health Care Act
DevinMiller, Washington Correspondent
After the American Health Care Act (AHCA) was introduced by Republican leadership
in the U.S. House of Representatives in early March, the Academy and pediatricians
were steadfast in their opposition to the legislation due to the harm it would cause
children and families.
From writing op-eds and letters in their local newspapers to calling their members
of Congress and sharing messages on social media, pediatricians amplified the key
takeaways that the AHCA would make health care coverage less affordable, less comprehensive
and less accessible.
The Academy called the changes the legislation made to Medicaid “detrimental to children
and families.” The bill would have cut federal funding to the states, meaning less
coverage for those who need it the most, including children with special health care
needs and those from low-income families. It also jeopardized the program’s Early
and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment benefits that are guaranteed to all
children in Medicaid and are viewed as the standard of pediatric care.
Over a span of 18 days, which concluded with the bill being pulled from consideration,
pediatricians weighed in, and the Academy continued to urge Congress to reconsider
the harmful proposals and instead move forward with policies that are most supportive
of children’s health.
These efforts came to a crescendo the week the House was expected to vote on the AHCA.
Medical organizations and child health and advocacy groups rallied against the bill,
and many members of Congress cited hearing the opposition from their constituents
as their own reason for opposing the bill.
Pediatricians played a pivotal role in this groundswell of grassroots advocacy. Here
is a snapshot of how those actions played out over five days:
Monday, March 20: The week began in Washington, and the health care debate was top of mind for lawmakers
and advocates alike. A vote on the AHCA was expected in the House on Thursday.
Tuesday, March 21: AAP President Fernando Stein, M.D., FAAP, sent a message to all AAP members, urging
them to contact their representatives and tell them to vote “no” on the AHCA. He also
shared an AAP advocacy toolkit. “Every voice and every advocacy action, no matter
how big or small, makes a difference,” said Dr. Stein.
Wednesday, March 22: The Academy issued a press statement along with six other leading children's health
groups, outlining how the AHCA's changes to Medicaid would have a direct, negative
impact on children and families.
Soon after the statement was out to press, Lee Beers, M.D., FAAP, participated in
a #MedicaidMatters press conference with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) to share how Medicaid
is a lifeline for many of her patients. Dr. Beers joined several other speakers who
emphasized the importance of Medicaid in their lives, including a retired social worker
who would not be able to afford nursing home care for her mother without the program
and a mother whose daughter suffers from Rett syndrome and relies on Medicaid to afford
medications, equipment and nursing care.
Thursday, March 23: The House was expected to vote on AHCA in the afternoon. The Academy sent an alert
to its Key Contact Network, asking them to continue calling and emailing their representatives.
In the afternoon, the news broke that the House vote on the bill was postponed to
Friday, March 24: In the morning,the Academy sent an email to all House offices, outlining the importance of essential
health benefits and Medicaid for children and urging members of Congress to reject
After hours of news coverage on the fate of the bill and debates on Capitol Hill,
the House pulled the bill from consideration. Immediately after the decision was announced,
the Academy issued a press statement, urging Congress to forge a new path to protect
children's health care.
The Academy also joined a statement with the American Academy of Family Physicians,
American College of Physicians, American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
and American Osteopathic Association. “Our voices were heard and the AHCA did not
advance, but our work is far from over,” said Dr. Stein in the AAP statement, which
was shared quickly with all AAP members. “Pediatricians stand ready to work with Congress
and the administration on any future efforts to reform health care, with one condition:
that such policies keep Medicaid strong and put children first.”
With the Children’s Health Insurance Program in need of renewal and ongoing threats
to Medicaid, the Academy will continue to work with its members to ensure children
have a strong voice in Washington.
In the days and weeks leading up to the vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA),
pediatricians across the country spoke out in their local newspapers about the bill
and its impacts on children and families. Dozens of op-eds and letters to the editor
were published. Below are a few excerpts:
The Washington Post
“The changes to Medicaid being currently discussed would reduce access and services
for children. We must remember Fredrick Douglass’s plea, ‘It is easier to build strong
children than to repair broken men.’” – Daniel Levy, M.D., FAAP, and Ankoor Shah,
The New York Times “The American Health Care Act jeopardizes our nation’s children. We must put kids
first in order to ensure the health of our country.” – Elizabeth Meade, M.D., FAAP
Tallahassee Democrat “…we all have an obligation to the children in our state, our future, knowing that
2.6 million children in Florida rely on Medicaid and Florida Kid Care to access the
care they need to be healthy. Let’s not lose progress on the gains we’ve made in children’s
health coverage.” – Madeline Joseph, M.D., FAAP, and Paul Robinson, M.D., FAAP
The Dallas Morning News “The children I care for have something else in common in addition to their reliance
on Medicaid. They cannot vote… They are relying on the adults in our state to let
our elected representatives know that Medicaid matters. It saves lives.” – Valerie
Borum Smith, M.D., FAAP