By: Thomas K. McInerny, MD, FAAP, president, American Academy of Pediatrics
“On behalf of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the 60,000 pediatricians we represent, I am discouraged by recent federal spending decisions taking place in Washington that do children a real disservice.
“The budget plan released today by U.S. House of Representatives Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), combined with Congress’ failure to stop a set of automatic budget cuts from taking effect earlier this month, is another example of children’s needs being overlooked rather than prioritized in federal spending decisions.
“At a time when child poverty is at an all-time high, Chairman Ryan’s 10-year budget plan and the across-the-board spending cuts that took effect on March 1 do little to mitigate the impacts of poverty. Maternal and child health programs like WIC and Head Start, which provide lifeline services to vulnerable families, are already operating at historically low levels and represent a fraction of our overall federal budget. Further cutting these programs means cutting investments in a broad range of child health areas, such as preventive health screenings, childhood immunizations, the pediatric workforce, early education and medical research innovations. Not only do such cuts have no significant economic benefit, they set back efforts to help lift children and families out of poverty.
“Medicaid is another fundamental child health program being threatened in long-term budget negotiations and by Chairman Ryan’s proposal to block-grant the program. Medicaid matters for children, providing age-appropriate health care services for those with special health care needs and from low-income families. Nearly half of all Americans covered by Medicaid are children, so any severe cuts to the program jeopardize children’s health and offer little savings, since children account for just 20% of the program’s spending.
“As the spending cuts enacted earlier this month begin to take root across the country, children will suffer disproportionately. Congress has real decisions to make about our country’s financial future, and efforts to repeal health reform that have no legislative standing only serve to distract national leaders from more meaningful policy-making. Chairman Ryan’s repeated call to repeal the Affordable Care Act, included once again in his budget proposal released today, is simply the wrong choice for children.
“Children may not be able to vote, but through their pediatricians and other child health advocates, they do have a voice. Whether considering Fiscal Year 2014 federal spending bills or reviewing long-term budget proposals, the American Academy of Pediatrics’ message to our elected leaders is clear: It is time to put children first.”
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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. (www.aap.org)