March of Dimes Urges Passage of House Health Reform Bill
Washington, D.C., November 6, 2009 – Dr. Marina L. Weiss, senior vice president of public policy and government affairs for the March of Dimes, issued the following statement:
“Relying on an extensive body of research and evidence-based studies, the March of Dimes has long maintained that one of the most effective ways to improve the health of women of childbearing age, infants and children is to ensure that every woman and child in the U.S. has access to quality, affordable, comprehensive health coverage that cannot be cancelled or denied.
“The Affordable Health Care for America Act – while not perfect, would move the health reform effort forward, thus we view approval of this measure as an important step toward that goal.
“There are many provisions in the “Affordable Health Care for America Act” that would improve healthcare for women and children. The March of Dimes believes the bill’s greatest strength is the proposed requirement that all health plans cover maternity and pediatric services, including well baby and well child preventive visits, vision, hearing and oral health services as well as specialty care, rehabilitation and habilitative services for those with chronic medical conditions. In addition, the House bill would strengthen Medicaid by adding tobacco cessation pharmaceuticals and counseling to the benefit package for pregnant women, and giving states the option to expand family planning coverage without having to obtain a federal waiver.
“The Foundation is especially grateful to bill sponsors for their efforts in crafting important protections designed to guard against gaps in coverage and medical services while children and pregnant women who currently rely upon CHIP transfer to the new ‘Exchanges.’ During this interval, for example, benefits would have to be at least comparable to CHIP. ‘Exchanges’ do not yet exist, and it is impossible to know whether the 2013 timetable for their implementation assumed in the bill can be met, therefore while we recognize that the Exchange may ultimately provide stable, guaranteed coverage as envisioned by Congress, the interim protections for pregnant women and children – particularly those with significant healthcare needs – are essential and should be maintained throughout the transition to a reformed health system.
“Also with regard to Medicaid, the Foundation remains concerned that the timetable for proposed reductions to Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments may be too ambitious and that some of the most at-risk pregnant women and children could face serious barriers to care if DSH payments are terminated or significantly reduced before new coverage requirements are fully implemented.
“Finally, the March of Dimes commends bill sponsors for the addition of a vital statistics section to the bill. Educating physicians and other health professionals about the importance of providing accurate data, encouraging states to adopt the revised birth and death certificate format, and working with states to upgrade their vital statistics systems will lay the groundwork for accurate tracking of changes in the health status of the nation’s population and will assist policymakers to design and target future health system improvements.
“The March of Dimes is committed to seeing that health reform succeed and thus we will continue to work with all Members of Congress, as well as the Administration, toward the shared goal of ensuring that every woman of childbearing age, infant, and child has access to quality affordable health coverage and care.”
The March of Dimes is a national voluntary health agency whose volunteers and staff work to improve the health of infants and children by preventing birth defects, premature birth and infant mortality. Founded in 1938, the March of Dimes funds programs of research, community services, education, and advocacy. For the latest resources and information, visit marchofdimes.com or nacersano.org.