Changing Medicine. Changing Lives. ®

July 17, 2017

Ellie goes to Washington

Nine-year-old Ellie Schmidt made her first trip to Washington, D.C., last week, but it wasn’t an average summer vacation trip to visit relatives or sightsee.

Instead, Ellie and her parents traveled from their home in Center Point, Iowa, to the nation’s capital to share their story with the United States Congress. One of Ellie’s pediatric cardiologists, Tom Scholz, MD, also made the trip. Together, they were determined to ensure that lawmakers understand how important Medicaid funding is for children with complex medical conditions and for the children’s hospitals providing that specialized care.

Ellie was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome—a condition that in years past was almost always fatal. Instead, after three open-heart surgeries, several other medical procedures, many days in the hospital, and continued outpatient care, she is a bright, active young girl. As they told legislators, Ellie’s parents are not sure what would have happened without Medicaid coverage and the highly specialized pediatric care available at University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, where about 42 percent of patients are covered by Medicaid.

The Schmidts and Dr. Scholz joined about 50 other patients and families on Capitol Hill as part of Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day, sponsored by the Children’s Hospital Association. Their advocacy for maintaining affordable health care coverage for children was especially timely, coming on the day a revised health care bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate.

It also helped put a spotlight on the fact that, while scientific advances make it possible for more children to survive serious conditions like congenital heart disease, cerebral palsy, and cancer, few families can afford the ongoing specialty care required. That’s why a growing number of children depend on Medicaid and children’s hospitals to help meet their complex medical needs. Like Ellie, more than two million children in the U.S. rely on Medicaid to cover payments for their complex medical needs, often provided by specialists at children’s hospitals.

Currently, a record 95 percent of children in the U.S. have health insurance coverage—more than 30 million through jointly funded federal and state Medicaid programs. To me, it is not acceptable until 100 percent of children have health care coverage.

I am very grateful to Ellie, her parents, and Dr. Scholz for representing Iowa children and families and UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital in the national discussion of the importance of Medicaid. The support of the Schmidts and so many other patients and families that we hear from every day inspires us to do our best work as we carry out the tripartite mission of UI Health Care.

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