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Bush Budget Cuts Federal Health Programs Vital to the Health of All Children

Nearly $19 Billion in Medicaid and Discretionary Spending Cuts

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Feb. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- President Bush's Fiscal Year 2009 budget cuts federal health programs vital to the future of health and health care for all children. On top of an $18.2 billion cut in Medicaid, the nation's single largest payer of children's health care for working families, the President's budget also cuts $700 million from discretionary health programs that children depend on, ranging from poison control hotlines to funding for training children's doctors.

The following are examples of the many programs targeted in the President's budget for reductions.

-- Cut: In the face of an economic downturn, the budget would cut federal Medicaid funding in ways that will negatively impact children's eligibility for coverage and access to health care, as well as the providers that serve them. Medicaid, pays for the care of more than 29 million children ($18.2 billion);

-- Eliminate: The budget would kill the Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education program that enables children's hospitals to train more than one-third of all pediatricians, half of all pediatric subspecialists, and the majority of all pediatric research scientists devoted to biomedical advancements in children's health care ($301 million);

-- Eliminate: The budget would eliminate the Emergency Medical Services for Children program that funds emergency services to assure their capacity to provide a high standard of pediatric emergency medical care ($19 million);

-- Cut: The budget would cut Poison Control Centers by 37 percent ($10 million) jeopardizing the statewide and regional poison control hotlines that parents rely on to save the lives of their children, who account for more than 60 percent of all calls to these centers; and

-- Level fund: The Maternal and Child Health Block Grant that serves 27.5 million children would be frozen $666 million which is $43 million less than its FY 2000 funding level.

"This is a tragedy, because 2009 marks yet another year where the President has failed to make children a priority in his federal budget," said First Focus President Bruce Lesley. "This is unquestionably a threat to the long-term health and future productivity of the nation, the exact opposite of the kind of investment-oriented budget the nation needs."

The FY 2009 budget includes 22 legislative proposals to Medicaid totaling $17.4 billion over five years and three administrative proposals totaling $800 million over five years. According to First Focus and the National Association of Children's Hospitals, particularly troubling is the proposal to eliminate the law protecting children with special health care needs from being enrolled in managed care without regard to public oversight and federal assurance they would have access to the providers they need.

The President's budget reductions for Medicaid are in addition to 11 Medicaid and State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) policy changes released in 2007. The 2007 policy changes would decrease Medicaid spending by at least $12 billion.

"If Congress doesn't block nearly a dozen pending Medicaid and SCHIP rules, as well as the more $19 billion in new proposed cuts, programs important to children will have been cut by more than $31 billion. The bottom line is - such enormous cuts would represent a frontal assault on health care programs that benefit children," said Lawrence McAndrews, president and CEO of the National Association of Children's Hospitals. "Sadly, it's not clear to us that the Administration even understands the effect its combined cuts would have on children's health, much less children's readiness to learn and grow up to become productive members of society."

The President's budget does include an increase of $19.7 billion over five years for SCHIP, the State Children's Health Insurance Program. However, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, states need an increase of approximately $21.5 billion over the next five years simply to maintain their current programs. Under the Administration's proposal, many states would have to scale back their SCHIP programs."

"Don't be fooled by the President's proposed SCHIP increase," said Lesley. "It comes at the expense of Medicaid and limits eligibility in SCHIP to children in families at or below 200 percent of poverty."

"The nation desperately needs to invest in the health of children -- our most precious national resource," said Lesley. "This budget simply doesn't cut it."

"Children's hospitals look forward to working with our child health allies in Congress to ensure these many proposals harmful to children will be rejected," added McAndrews.

First Focus is a bipartisan advocacy organization launched by America's Promise Alliance that is committed to making children and their families a priority in federal policy and budget decisions.

The National Association of Children's Hospitals (N.A.C.H.) represents more than 135 children's hospitals across the country, including independent acute care children's hospitals, children's specialty hospitals, and children's hospitals that operate within larger institutions.

SOURCE National Association of Children's Hospitals and Related
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