Over the past four months I have listened to countless stories on TV and read many more in the newspapers about the H1N1 virus. For months and months health officials have been saying that one of the best approaches to keeping both the regular flu and H1N1 in check is for all kids to get immunized against the regular flu.
Just like most of us, I hate getting sick. I work out of my home, both for the paper and as an artist and so I have no sick days. Consequently my husband and I got our flu shots and prepared to get the grandkids theirs as well.
Since we are their guardians, they are both on Medicaid. We called both the health department and their pediatrician to find out when they could come in.
The state sends batches of shots for Medicaid use. They designate who they can be used for. I was told the shots would be here on Oct. 1 and I made an appointment for that day to get them their shots.
On October 1, I was called at 9:30 and told they were already out of the shots and I could get each of them one if we paid out of pocket for them. The health department said the same thing.
We are lucky and found the money (close to $50 for both kids) and got them done. Most families with kids on Medicaid cannot do that.
Looking into the situation, I found out that the state sent my children's pediatrician only 10 doses to give out, rather than the 100 they requested. I am not sure what the health department got, but they probably are in the same situation.
Now I have also heard reported on the media that there is no shortage of seasonal flu vaccines. So why the rationing for a pool of kids that probably truly need the shots as much or more than most kids.
The children covered by Medicaid represent a pool of children that include many of our highest risk kids. These are children with chronic health problems, children with poor nutritional diets, children living in crowded and transient households to name just some of the risks.
Now not all kids that are on Medicaid fall into those conditions, but many do. Not providing the opportunity to get them vaccinated will translate to higher costs to the Medicaid program in the long run.
The flu those kids get may end them up in the hospital. They may also be more likely to pass it on to the others in their household and result in more doctors and hospital costs. If the parents are uninsured, we still all bear the costs to treat them.
The state Medicaid program faces deeper cuts this legislative session. Money is tight and there has to be cuts somewhere. But as I have said before, prevention programs are the wrong place to go looking for dollars.
More and more of the once middle class is in need of services. They also have earned the right to health, retraining and dignity if they are to survive long enough to get employed and back on track. No wonder this group resents the services to the poor. As soon as they need them as well, we yank them away.
We are told by our legislature that economic times are hard and we face tough choices to keep our budgets balanced. Yes we do, but we need make sure we do not sacrifice long term savings for short term gains.
We treat the poor who are sick and pay for it with our own higher insurance costs whether they have insurance or not. We pay to clean up crime if we don't treat the drug users. We feed the poor through more and more food drives even when they are denied food stamps. And we pay huge amounts to house elderly and people with disabilities in nursing homes when they no longer have access to home health care and assistive technology.
What do we truly save when prevention and treatment programs are slashed to the bone? Nothing.
Yes you have heard this from me before and until we really think this lesson through, you will hear it from me again.