You’ve been hearing a lot lately about what’s been going on in Congress, whether it’s the dissolution of the “supercommittee,” or reduced funding for important federal programs. Below is a quick update on how two important children’s health programs are faring.
Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program
In mid-October we posted a blog entry on the status of the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) program, the only federal program that supports the training of pediatricians and pediatric specialists in children’s teaching hospitals. This vital program trains 5,600 pediatricians and pediatric specialists each year.
Unfortunately, the roadblocks that held up the program more than a month ago are still in place. The reauthorization of the program – legislation that needs to be passed to continue the program for another five years – remains held up in the Senate. The current authorization has actually expired, but the program is being kept alive by a continuing resolution through at least mid-December.
The good news is the Senate remains our only holdup. The House of Representatives has already passed their bill, and N.A.C.H. staff have heard positive feedback from Senators on the future of the program. Ideally, the Senate will pass a bill that’s identical to the House version. That would eliminate the need for the two sides to come together to work out differences in the bill which would hold it up even longer. The issue seems to be one or two Senators who, in an effort to curb what they believe to be wasteful spending by Congress, are holding up a number of bills from reaching the floor.
Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid (D-NV), and Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have acknowledged the importance of CHGME, and both have urged passage of the legislation. We need to let them know just how important this program is to ensuring that our children have access to quality medical care. Without CHGME reauthorization, the shortage of pediatric doctors for kids will only become worse. Using our new Speak Now for Kids website, you can send letters to your Senators urging passage of this important legislation. But CHGME isn’t the only program that’s in danger.
In an effort to reduce federal spending, the so-called supercommittee was tasked with finding billions of dollars in cuts to the Federal budget. The bipartisan group of 12 legislators was unable to come to an agreement; that set in motion a “trigger” that automatically cuts $1.2 billion in cuts from defense, Medicare and dozens of other federal programs. However, safety net programs such as welfare, social security and Medicaid are exempted from ANY of these cuts.
Good news, right? On the surface, yes, but Medicaid is not out of the woods yet. Congress could still find other ways of cutting Medicaid funding before the end of the year and beyond. In addition, Medicaid can still be cut at the state level. Several states are seeing economic recovery but with the Medicaid population growing, most new funds will be diverted to cover the costs of Medicaid — unless the states attempt to scale back on the program. We need to be vigilant on both the federal and state level to ensure this important program — on which one in three children rely for their health coverage — is not cut.
Our Speak Now for Kids page is a great way to keep up with these issues AND to write your legislators and tell them to put kids first as they think about spending cuts. Remember, children don’t have lobbyists or political consultants — they’re relaying on YOU to be their voice. We can’t let them down.