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Children's hospitals say GOP health bill would be a 'catastrophe' for kids

Entry to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, California on June 23, 2017.
Daryl Barker/KPCC
Entry to the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at the Loma Linda University Medical Center.

With the Senate GOP leadership preparing to unveil its revised health care bill Thursday, among those lobbying against the bill are representatives of the nation's children's hospitals, who say it would be devastating for kids' medical care.

The original Senate bill's cuts to Medicaid would be "a catastrophe" for California children, says Anne Kuhns, president and CEO of the California Children’s Hospital Association. Some 5.7 million low-income children are on the program, called Medi-Cal in California.

The state estimates the Senate bill’s cuts to Medicaid would amount to a 25 percent hit to the Medi-Cal program over 10 years - about $114 billion. Roughly two-thirds of the kids in the state's children's hospitals are on Medi-Cal.

"I could say unequivocally that Children’s Hospital Los Angeles would be substantially impacted in what we’re able to do for our patients and families, both [in] the breath of what we do and the depth of what we do," says Lara Khouri, the facility's chief strategy officer.

In short, that would mean cuts in services. Seventy-three percent of the care Children's provides supports kids on Medi-Cal.

"That doesn’t just affect children on the Medicaid program," says Kuhns. "That affects access to privately insured children, too. These are very unique services that are provided by very highly trained physicians."

Children's hospitals often work on tight margins, in part because they have to be have the tools to operate on anyone from a premature baby to an 18 year old, says Jim Kaufman, vice president for public policy at the national Children’s Hospital Association.

"That’s one of the challenges," he says. "There’s additional cost to have all that equipment on board, all that capability to serve such a diverse population, even though the number of kids that require children’s hospitals is relatively small."

Congress should "scrap" the GOP bill and "go back to the drawing table and design something that’s good for kids," says Khouri.