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From the Post-Gazette:

Though a lot of ruckus was made about federal health care reform, as a pediatrician I'd be hard pressed to find anyone who disputed the importance of the legislation in protecting children's health coverage.

While the law contains many key provisions, one highlight is that it prohibits states from restricting eligibility for public health insurance programs, including Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. And since half of Medicaid enrollees in this country are children, that protection is important.

But now, legislation has been introduced in the House and the Senate to repeal the stability protections that were part of the federal Affordable Care Act. House Resolution 1683 would eliminate the Medicaid and CHIP provisions that require states to hold steady in their commitment to public health coverage.

As someone who has devoted his career to caring for sick infants, it is unfathomable to me that our elected officials would trade the health and well-being of children for politics, and, worst of all, at the expense of families who can least afford it.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates that if the repeal proposed in HR 1683 becomes law, half of the states would eliminate their CHIP programs by 2016 and the remaining states would scale back coverage for children -- resulting in hundreds of thousands of newly uninsured kids. This would unravel the recent success our nation has seen in bringing the rate of uninsured children to the lowest point in decades.

In Pennsylvania, the stability protections in federal law have helped preserve CHIP and helped maintain a crucial lifeline to children and families during tough economic times. If HR 1683 were to be enacted and the stability protections eliminated, the health care coverage of nearly 200,000 Pennsylvania children -- including more than 13,000 in Allegheny County -- would be put at risk.

Health care coverage is a vital link between children and a successful future. Without health insurance, children are more likely to suffer undiagnosed and untreated conditions, such as ear infections, that interfere with their ability to learn. They may not be able to afford eyeglasses or get timely screenings for autism spectrum disorders. Uninsured children are more likely to miss school and have diminished academic achievement.

Roughly two-thirds of those who would be harmed by HR 1683 are children. And with families and communities still struggling to gain a foothold after turbulent economic times, this is no time to pass more costs onto those who can least afford it.

I encourage Rep. Jason Altmire, D-McCandless, Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, and the rest of the Pennsylvania delegation in Congress to oppose HR 1683 and any attempt to whittle away health coverage protections for kids.

Even if we succeed in curbing this proposal, it's sure to be just the first in a series of measures with similar aims. We need to stand up and let our members of Congress know that protecting children's health is a priority.

The stability protections in place in the Affordable Care Act are there for a reason: To guarantee more children have the opportunity to grow up healthy and strong.

Dr. Robert C. Cicco is a neonatologist at West Penn Allegheny Hospital.

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