When it comes to health care in America, there is at least one principle on which we, as a people, should agree: health care access for our nation’s children is sacred and should not fall whim to politics. Yet, this year, we’ve seen Congress engage in closed-door efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and enact replacement legislation that makes no effort to protect coverage and access to care for kids across America.

We represent the hospitals in Michigan that serve many of our state’s sickest kids. To us, the recent hasty actions in Washington, D.C., to reform health care are a direct threat to the well-being and survival of our most vulnerable children.

Instead of pushing ahead with flawed legislation, we urge Congress to do the right thing when it comes to our children: take proposed cuts to health care coverage and access for children off the table.

Medicaid ensures children have access to primary care and routine immunizations and checkups. It also allows children to receive X-rays after a sports injury or proper treatment for an unexpected cancer diagnosis.

Children make up more than 40 percent of the Medicaid program nationally. In Michigan, nearly one million kids are covered by Medicaid. For many, the program is so much more than health insurance: it’s a lifeline.

The American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by the U.S. House and currently with the Senate takes a budget ax to Medicaid. In doing so, the proposed act fails to protect funding, coverage and benefits for children.

In fact, a new analysis of the AHCA by the national Children’s Hospital Association finds that funding for the care of kids who qualify for Medicaid based on income status would be cut by $43 billion over 10 years. This would prove catastrophic to kids across Michigan.

Currently, Medicaid is a flexible program; federal funding to states rises and falls as needs change. In other words, Medicaid is not capped. If all states were to take up what is called the “block grant” option under the House-passed AHCA, the Medicaid cut to children’s funding would swell to $78 billion over 10 years.

The legislation also fails to guarantee that funds meant for kids will be spent on them, or that the children who most need coverage will receive it. To deal with the funding reductions, states would have to make difficult decisions affecting children’s coverage and scope of benefits.

In addition, the House-passed AHCA also puts kids with preexisting conditions currently covered by private health insurance plans under the ACA at increased risk of losing health care coverage.

In an ideal world, no parent would ever have to face the news that his or her child has a life-threatening condition. But this happens every day. When it does, parents shouldn’t have to worry if they can afford to get their child the care she desperately needs.

Children are our most precious asset and are the future of our country. Yet they are being left behind in the national healthcare debate.

As the people who care for Michigan’s kids at their sickest — but who also treat minor injuries and give them clean bills of health before they enter the new school year — we raise our voices on their behalf.

Above all else, we — healthcare providers and public servants — have a duty to protect the youngest among us, and give them a chance to grow up healthy. The U.S. Senate should protect Medicaid funding, coverage and benefits for children and reject any proposal that endangers our children’s futures.

Brian Peters is CEO of the Michigan Health & Hospital Association. Paul King chairs the MHA Council on Children’s Health is and executive director, C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital and Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital.

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