"Dr. Mom" sees threat in reform by Marybeth Hicks


hicks_marybeth_2“You’d better get over here,” the school secretary said. “Something’s up with Katie.” “Something” turned out to be a post-tonsillectomy bleed that began 11 days after surgery. It continued on and off for four days and included two ambulance rides, several long nights in the emergency department and, eventually, a 3 a.m. emergency surgery, a blood transfusion and a week in the hospital to recover.

Most families would look back and recall kindergarten. We look back and remember “Katie’s tonsillectomy.”

That was 15 years ago. There have been countless episodes before then and since involving my four children that brought me into the health care system to varying degrees. As any parent will attest, most of us mark time with medical stories, as in, “That was the summer Jimmy had staples in his head” and “That was the year Betsy had a stress fracture and couldn’t run.”

There is perhaps no greater certainty as a parent than the sure knowledge that over the course of your children’s young lives, you will spend hours with them in the waiting room of the pediatrician’s office or an urgent care center or the hospital emergency room.

You’re likely to become “Dr. Mom” or “Dr. Dad” as you learn all you must know to make wise decisions about your child’s health. Ultimately, no parenting task is more important — or more serious — than to monitor and maintain the health of our children.

Protecting children’s health is one supposed selling point to reforming health care. On the face of it, with potentially up to 10 percent of America’s children uninsured, this is one of the best reasons to overhaul aspects of our medical delivery system.

But H.R. 3200, the bill under consideration in the House, doesn’t simply help parents find the resources to pay for their children’s health care. It includes intrusive mechanisms to decide what that care ought to be. And despite promises that those of us who are happy with our private insurance can keep it, the fine print in this bill forces even private insurers to alter the care we may choose for our children.

According to Devon Herrick, a health industry economist and fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, this health care overhaul will affect parents’ decision-making roles for their children.

“It isn’t meant to only reform our health care system,” he says. “It’s meant to remold it entirely. And in that way, you can imagine that the law of unintended consequences may take over. It will inject larger bureaucracies into all aspects of health care – ALL aspects – and in that regard this bill definitely does impact choice.”

Mr. Herrick warns of “mission creep” in the legislation, too. Ideas such as voluntary home visitor programs, meant to fund state-based parenting and child-development education for underserved populations, may ultimately promote state sponsored “best practices” in parenting our children.

Um … Welcome to Stepford, everyone, where all the children are healthy and happy because the government makes it so.

Given President Obama’s recent comment about doctors’ money motives behind tonsillectomies, perhaps he would have eliminated our option to have the surgery that caused us such worry all those years ago. But in reality, given the risks, no doctor does this surgery anymore unless it’s absolutely necessary – and no parent would allow it, either, if it weren’t needed.

Every mom or dad waiting outside a surgical suite or watching a hospital monitor measuring a child’s every labored breath will attest that our interest in the well-being of our children is God-given and supreme. As such, our roles in their care must be respected.

But you won’t find any language like that in the thousand-plus pages of H.R. 3200.

Copyright 2009 Marybeth Hicks


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  1. Amen!! This move by our President and national leadership will be very intrusive and may be dangerous to all in society, but most of all our children who can’t be advocates for their own care. Many of our country’s children are without parents that can be good advocates.
    I don’t get how anyone can reason that the government can run a national health program with their track record with Social Security and other programs! Not to mention the track record of countries that have socialized health systems – whose citizens come to the US to get care that they cannot recieve in their own countries.
    Also, do we really want our records to be in the hands of the government so they can make health care decisions for us and have access to that private info on us? How secure is that really going to be? How well will they make life/health decisions for us? Are they going to tie the hands of our doctors? Scary stuff if you ask me!

  2. think that, as a CatholicMom, that the moral imperative of insuring the 9 million children in this nation without health insurance have the ability to get the post-tonsillectomy treatment that your child received. That is what health reform is about.

    It is also about changing the cost curve. Our family policy costs us $18,000 a year and it is far from a Cadillac plan, as there are copayments, deductibles, and benefit limits. For a family making $36,000 a year, that would require half their income and is, therefore, unaffordable.

    As for the bill’s provisions about government intrusion, it is actually about government protections. It prohibits insurance companies from imposing pre-existing conditions upon children with birth defects. It prohibits insurnace companies from imposing recissions (where they can deny a child cancer treatment because the parent forgot to tell the insuranxe company the kid has acne). It ensures parents that the policy they buy (and how has ever read the 56-page insurance policy fineprint???) Covers their child’s immunizations to their cancer treatment or post-tonsillectomy care.

    Chiildren are our nation’s most vulnerable children. This is not about limits but protections for their health. As a society, we can leave it up to the whims of insurance company executives or can establish a set of basic protections that ensure all kids have health care and get covered for their unique developmental health care needs. I choose the later and bill before Congress does rthat.

    If you want to be critical of the bill, the concern for children is that the Senate bill contemplates elimination of the Children’s Health Insurance Program and for the 7 million children currently receiving their coverage through it to be moved into an insurance exchange to get their coverage. CHIP provides children with unique pediatric benefits and pediatric networks and we should be careful not to eliminate that very popular and sucessful set of services for low-income children until be know the alternative is comparable or better.

  3. How blest you are to have health insurance – so many do not. So many die because they do not. Health insurance controls health care coverage. If one believes otherwise then one has never had to ‘fight’ for the right for treatments. Having an insurance drop an insurer at a whim isn’t easy to swallow and to become unemployed with children and live in fear of an accident, an illness or simply disability is not living – it is existing in fear. We are a nation of people for the people – not a nation for the corporations. It is time we act as Christians and become the Good Samaritan that Jesus speaks of and quit being the brother of the prodical son who is jealous of a loving father reaching out to help heal. We need to help heal each other whether physical or emotional or spiritual. I believe we need to step back and breathe and do what is right for all peoples and I believe health care is a right of all American citizens and the option to choose which one.

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