- Children’s hospitals across the country are calling on Congress to help address children’s mental health and care-access issues as legislators wrap up the year, according to a letter last week from the Children’s Hospital Association.
- The lobby is seeking boosted Medicaid reimbursements for pediatric mental health services and dedicated funding for the pediatric mental health workforce through grants as ongoing staffing shortages persist, according to the letter.
- The group also wants to ensure children on the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) remain covered amid looming eligibility redeterminations tied to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
The requests come as children’s hospitals face an influx of patients with respiratory illnesses, the flu and mental health conditions, CHA CEO Mark Wietecha said in a statement.
“Congressional action is urgently needed before the end of the year to ensure children’s hospitals have the resources and capacity they need to best take care of our nation’s children,” he said.
Last year, the lobby, which represents 220 children’s hospitals, declared a national state of emergency over child and adolescent mental health, “and hospitals continue to see this firsthand in their emergency departments,” the letter said.
Rhode Island has reported that pediatric beds in its state are at capacity and other states have said occupancy rates of 90% and higher.
Staffing shortages across the healthcare workforce are part of what is exacerbating that problem at children’s hospitals.
The CHA asked for $718.8 million for fiscal year 2023 and a $200 million one-time increase in appropriations to help fund the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education Program, which provides pediatric-specific training at children’s teaching hospitals.
The group also requested higher Medicaid reimbursement to help retain existing children’s mental health care providers and attract more providers into the occupation.
Protecting CHIP coverage is another key ask. The CHA wants Congress to extend 12-month continuous eligibility for children who may face coverage gaps due to temporary shifts in household eligibility requirements, and before public health emergency waivers wind down.
The CHA noted in its letter that funding would help reduce gaps in federal investments for physicians training in adult care versus children’s care.