It’s no secret that New Mexico has some of the highest rates of poverty and uninsured children in the United States.
So it makes sense for New Mexicans to know just how federal health care reform – aka The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – enacted at the state level can improve the lives of children – particularly low-income children who would not otherwise receive health care.
Dr. Lance Chilton has been a pediatrician in New Mexico for 34 years, treating children from all social groups and strata. He is a former Indian Health Service doctor who also worked for years at Lovelace. A former president of the New Mexico Pediatric Society, Dr. Chilton now works for the Young Children’s Health Center at the University of New Mexico.
Dr. Chilton knows what New Mexico’s children need – and he’s excited about the changes health care reform will bring for them.
Here’s what Dr. Chilton considers some of the high points regarding health care reform and what it will do for New Mexico’s children:
- Under the new health care provisions, insurance companies will be barred from refusing to cover children who suffer from pre-existing health conditions. In New Mexico, that means 36,400 children who would not be eligible for health insurance will now be eligible for coverage. “It is very important that children not be denied health care because of a pre-existing condition,” said Dr. Chilton. His words are borne out by a New Families USA report released today that shows that thousands of New Mexicans of all ages, racial groups and income levels are affected by the denial of coverage issue.
- The new health care reform preserves the Early, Periodic, Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) Program, which is the child health component of Medicaid. The program provides early testing and intervention for low -income children for a wide range of developmental problems as well as for disease and infection in the areas of physical, mental, dental and visual health.
So far, the EPSDT Program has been instrumental in many New Mexico children’s lives and it is important that it continue, said Dr. Chilton.
- Health care reform also provides funding for an increased number of physicians in New Mexico. Millions of dollars of state-based resources included in the health care package are available for qualifying New Mexico facilities and organizations that specialize in treating children, including school and community-based health care centers. That’s important, because, as Dr. Chilton notes, New Mexico does not have enough pediatricians, especially in isolated areas of the state.
“New Mexico does not have enough primary care doctors of any kind – internists, pediatricians or family practice doctors,” Dr. Chilton said.