One Dayton area family brought their story of heartache and hope to Washington this month to help Congress understand the importance of protecting pediatric care in face of growing budget concerns. Bailey Allen and her mother, Angie, traveled to the nation’s capital to bring attention to potential new barriers to pediatric health care as part of the National Association of Children’s Hospitals (N.A.C.H.) Family Advocacy Day on July 26.
The Allen family learned the value of access to quality pediatric care through firsthand experience. At 6 weeks old, Angie found a lump on the bottom of Bailey’s right foot. After surgery to remove the tumor and to run tests to see if it was cancerous, it was determined that Bailey’s tumor that was congenital fibrosarcoma of the right foot. Emmett Broxson, MD, physician in the hematology/oncology department at Dayton Children’s delivered the news to Angie. Bailey’s cancer was rare; a slow growing tumor present before birth, but Dr. Broxson and Bailey's orthopedic surgeon were confident Bailey would go through chemotherapy and not have to amputate her foot. Bailey went through nine months of aggressive chemotherapy and was in the hospital for many days. Bailey’s last treatment was December 28, 2000. She was 18 months old. Today, Bailey is active in soccer, softball, dance and basketball. Watching her you would never know she was once a cancer patient who may have lost her right foot.
“Receiving care from the experts at Dayton Children’s changed my child’s life,” said Angie. “All children deserve to have access to these services. We hope sharing our story will help policymakers recognize the need to protect and preserve quality health care for kids.”
Although decades of advocacy have yielded strides that have improved children’s access to coverage, the infrastructure that ensures access to care has sustained serious blows in 2011. The Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2012 budget called on Congress to eliminate funding for the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education Program (CHGME), a federal program that helps children’s hospitals train 40 percent of all pediatricians and 43 percent of pediatric specialists.
In addition, proposals to slash funding for Medicaid, the largest health care program for children in the country, have gained traction. Congress is discussing proposals to cut the program’s funding by $1 trillion over the next decade and impose a cap on the amount the federal government can contribute.
“Half of the children who seek care at children’s hospitals are insured through Medicaid,” said Vicki Giambrone, vice president of marketing and external relations at Dayton Children’s. “Although budget realities are stark right now, we should not seek to balance budgets at the expense of our youngest and most vulnerable patients.”
Survey data show that few people fully understand the extent to which Medicaid is a children’s program. Medicaid is most often associated with nursing home care or care for the disabled. However, over 50 percent of the patients at Dayton Children’s are covered under Medicaid and, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, one in three children overall is covered by Medicaid.
Eleven-year-old Bailey joined nearly 30 other children in championing access to pediatric care. The event included one-on-one Congressional visits, a tour of Washington D.C. and a celebratory dinner to honor the child patients known as Family Advocacy Day “All Stars.” Bailey has the opportunity to share her story with Senator Sherrod Brown, Congressman Michael Turner, Congressman Steve Austria and staff for Congressman Jim Jordan and Speaker of the House John Boehner.
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