Child Health Insurance in the Reform Debate
Children will hopefully fare better in the health insurance debate than those with chronic or life-threatening illnesses due to the recent passage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. In the bill, six billion dollars were made available to insure eleven million children. These are kids in families that do not qualify for welfare (Medicaid) or other insurance coverage.
The problem I anticipate with this bill is that many doctors will not accept the low payments that typically happen with government health insurance programs. Many days I saw children on Medi-Cal (California’s Medicaid) and for several hours of my time either minimal or no payment was received.
Pediatricians and family practice doctors must be paid adequately. A surgeon can make more in ten minutes than I could make in many hours. (My health insurance was recently billed for over $1000 for ten minutes of a surgeon’s time!) When doctors refuse to see children because of the low payment, the kids will have to be seen in clinics by doctors-in-training or nurse practitioners. This is not adequate medical care.
A single payer plan would be the answer where doctors and other health-care providers could negotiate their fees. Until that happens, we must have a public insurance option, as well as strict regulation of the health insurance and drug companies.
Written by Charlotte E. Thompson, M.D.