I am not an idealist. In fact, I would consider myself a realist.
Our health care system in the United States has real problems. We are not getting what we pay for. However, I am opposed to the recent proposals by Congress as part of a solution to these problems.
I am a pediatrician in Florence. I am a father, an Alabama native, and a taxpayer. I grew up in rural Alabama and I believe I understand what Alabama needs. The recent legislation that failed to pass the U.S. House of Representatives was certainly not what our state needs. The bill would have made considerable cuts to Medicaid and other federally funded programs.
To understand the impacts, you must recognize how important Medicaid is to our children and our economy. Did you know that the majority of people covered by the Medicaid program are children? About 625,000 of Alabama's 1.1 million children are covered by Medicaid or ALL Kids? That's about 57 percent.
Both programs are substantially underwritten by the federal government. About 44 percent of the more than eight billion dollars in federal funding in Alabama's budget is for Medicaid alone. Alabama has one of the leanest Medicaid programs in the country with administrative overhead rates that are less than the rates of typical private insurance companies. There isn't any belt-tightening to do. If Medicaid is cut, services are cut. People will lose insurance.
Over the past few years, we have increased the number of children with health insurance to 95 percent. This is the highest level in history. Why should children have insurance? It's about a return on investment. The facts are clear. Because Medicaid and ALL Kids cover important services for children such as routine health, developmental, hearing and vision screenings, children are better able to be healthy and ready for school.
And because these programs also cover children when they are sick, they are more likely to go to the doctor for care when they need it. Most importantly, studies have shown that insured children are more likely to attend school, graduate from high school, go to college, earn more in wages, pay more in taxes, and become healthy, successful adults than their uninsured peers. That is a return on investment. We need productive adults in Alabama's work force and healthy children are more likely to be healthy adults.
I urge you to join me in urging our elected officials in Washington to start over and instead consider health care reform proposals that will move children's health care coverage forward, not backward.
Andrew Wes Stubblefield, MD, FAAP, serves as vice president/president-elect of the Alabama Chapter-AAP.
In private pediatric practice at Infants' & Children's Clinic in Florence, AL, Dr. Stubblefield has been heavily involved in both his local community and the state pediatric community, serving on the medical staff of his local hospital, the board of Alabama Community Care, a probationary Alabama Medicaid regional care organization, and the Executive Board of the Alabama Chapter-AAP since 2008, where he has defined himself as a leader and fierce advocate across numerous child health policy areas.