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Matters of Opinion: Health Care for Children


Published Feb 29, 2008 8:00 AM

Copyright © Illustration by Jill Calder

"Health care for children is an emotional topic that has become a political football in the debate over health-care reform in Sacramento and in Washington. What do you think local, state and the national government can or should do to guarantee health care for America's kids?"

Health care for kids, particularly those in poor or lower-middle-class households, is a major issue in the presidential campaign and a controversial hot button in the national debate. We queried members of the Bruin community for their points of view on this critical subject.

"We should provide health care to all children, regardless of status. I think a big step in health care needs to be in education about available benefits and how to use them properly. Many people currently receiving health care don't even understand their benefits, so public education would go a long way in improving the health of our children. Recently a flier was sent to all the parents at our school offering health services, and very few of our parents signed up for the program. Many of us think it was because no one fully understood the benefits. We need to provide for our children. If that means giving incentives to businesses or seminars for parents or for the children themselves ... WHATEVER it takes. The more we provide for our children, the better our country's future."

Maradel Catipon Millhouse '85 Teacher, 2nd Grade Jane Addams Elementary School

"Children's health care touches a political nerve because it gets to the core of how we envision society. Do we share a sense of moral outrage when our most vulnerable members are unprotected? Are we really willing to help them grow into healthy adults? If our answer is 'yes,' then I believe that local, state and federal governments need to play key roles — not to replace individual responsibility, but to encourage and support healthy environments and access to health care. I think the government should make sure that all our children have health insurance coverage and access to care, in cooperation with state and local government and with parents."

E. Richard Brown Director, UCLA Center for Health Policy Research Professor, UCLA School of Public Health

"A recent article in the New England Journal of Medicine discloses that children receive only 41 percent of the recommended level of preventive health care. Insurance companies pay doctors primarily for treating disease, so where can consumers get prevention information? In the late '90s, I had the great pleasure of being the adolescent and school health coordinator for the Arkansas Department of Health. At that time we had 19 school-based health clinics (SBHCs) around the state. SBHCs give access to all children who have parental permission, regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay; eliminate financial concerns and difficulty in access; and treat acute and chronic health problems immediately and return children to class as soon as possible. My dream would be that every school be equipped with such a clinic."

Theresa J. Elders M.S.W. '78 Distinguished Social Welfare Alumna '03 UCLA Alumni Community Service Award '06 Public Member, Washington State Medical Quality Assurance Commission

"I believe that government has an obligation to ensure the well-being of all children, irrespective of who they are or where they come from. For health-care reform to be successful, it must withstand federal scrutiny. That is why I am heartened that many presidential candidates are making this issue part of their platforms. Until then, our California Legislature is working hard to make this state a model for successful reform. Real reform will need to be affordable to employers and to employees as well as provide quality basic care. Cost containment must be achieved without compromising our hospitals and clinics. And the costs must be spread fairly amongst all stakeholders in the health-care industry. Federal and state government must do their fair share, too, and appropriately budget and reimburse providers for their health-care service to our nation's children."

Felipe Fuentes '94 Assemblymember California State Assembly

"As a social worker in a hospital, I daily encounter the difficulties families face when they are without health insurance. I believe there should be more advocacy and financial support from the government for employer-based health care so parents can provide health insurance for their children without paying an exorbitant amount that hardly anyone can afford. And for those parents who cannot work due to physical or mental incapacities or who have attempted to look for work and cannot find it, the government should provide health insurance for children. Current county and state programs provide insurance for the indigent or families slightly above the poverty line. The lower-middle-class and middle-class families fall through the cracks. Their income is too high for government health insurance, but not high enough to afford private insurance. In addition, many adults under the age of 65 who are not yet Medicare-eligible suffer similar consequences."

Soomie Chun '98, M.S.W. '01 Clinical Social Worker UCLA Medical Center Care Coordination

"A statement we hear all of the time is 'Our children are our future.' But when it comes to our children's health care, our governments are unwilling to pay for their futures. At the Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA, we feel that we have a responsibility for all of the children in our community and we only wish that our political leaders would accept a similar responsibility. We feel that it is a privilege to care for children and are honored that parents trust their children's care to us. Our motto is that we are improving the health of today's and tomorrow's children — today's children through excellence in clinical care and tomorrow's children through education and research. We are investing our professional lives in the care of children, and we ask all citizens to invest their political will to assure health care for all of our children."

Edward R.B. McCabe Physician-in-Chief, Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA; Mattel Executive Endowed Chair, Department of Pediatrics, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA



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