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Another Voice: Congress must commit to health programs

By Jody L. Lomeo, Satish K. Tripathi and Thomas J. Quatroche Jr.

Twice in the past three months we have written as three of the principal partners of the largest comprehensive health care system in Western New York to the members of the Western New York congressional delegation expressing our deep concern over the federal government’s continuing failure to fund the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This program is vital to thousands of families across our region and plays an important role in the safe and affordable delivery of health care to families who might otherwise be forced to make unthinkable sacrifices to care for their children.

Closely tied to this legislation is the two-year continuation of a delay in the Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) cuts. Delaying these cuts is vital to our respective institutions that comprise the Great Lakes Health System, and systems like ours, which are responsible for providing care to a geographically, economically and socially diverse community. Our region’s high poverty rate, level of income disparity and aging population requires a special level of care, a level that can only be met when health care facilities have the resources to meet that demand. If cuts to the DSH program are not delayed, the resources that currently go toward patient care will be drastically reduced and a resulting drop in the quality and availability of care will result.

We urge our representatives and their colleagues to ensure that they address both matters prior to Jan. 19, when Congress again must take action on the federal budget. Both funding CHIP and delaying DSH cuts have long enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Congress; it is imperative that both issues are supported by our representatives.

The recent opening of new buildings housing the Oishei Children’s Hospital and the University at Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences – strengthening further one of the most ambitious medical care, research and education campuses in the nation – represents our region’s commitment to making health care more accessible. This kind of access, especially for children and aging populations, not only ensures better medical outcomes, but also saves money over the long term. Children with health insurance and access to quality care are less likely to miss school, have reduced risk of obesity and diabetes, and require less costly medical care over the course of their childhoods.

A sustainable and predictable way of funding CHIP and a two-year delay in DSH cuts are both warranted and necessary for patients and health care providers. We hope Congress will fully restore funding for CHIP and enact a delay in cuts to DSH, so that the patients and families we care for and serve are never forced to be in this position again.

Now is not the time to retreat from a commitment to sustainable health care funding. This will bring much-needed stability and predictability to a sector that is currently experiencing too much upheaval.

Jody L. Lomeo is president and CEO of Kaleida Health. Satish K. Tripathi is president of the University at Buffalo. Thomas J. Quatroche Jr. is president and CEO of Erie County Medical Center.

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