Parents of sick children speak out against proposed Medicaid cuts

  • Written by Dermot Connolly

mike farrell photo 7-13

                                                             Photo by Dermot Connolly

Advocate Children's Hospital President Mike Farrell discusses the importance of Medicaid funding to children such as Layla Molina, 6, (at right) and her mother,  Ivonne Camarillo, during a press conference Monday at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.


Several Chicago area parents and their children who depend on Medicaid went to Washington this week to lobby against the Medicaid funding cuts included in the American Health Care Act backed by President Trump.

They traveled to Washington to speak to congressmen and senators as part of the Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day scheduled for yesterday and today, July 12 and 13, an event sponsored by the Children’s Hospital Association. But before doing so, they joined pediatricians and other officials at a press conference held Monday at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.

Mike Farrell, president of Advocate Children’s Hospital, hosted the event. Other speakers included Daniel Johnson, MD., vice chairman of patient care services at Comer Children’s Hospital at the University of Chicago, and Matthew Davis, MD., coordinator of health services and police research at Lurie Children’s Hospital.

But the main focus during the press conference was the young patients, Layla Molina and Jamela Anthony, both 6 years old and battling life-threatening conditions. They both depend on Medicaid for their medical care as well.

Johnson said the ACHA proposal calls for $800 billion in Medicaid cuts over 10 years.

“That’s billion with a b,” he emphasized.

While no specifics have been stated about where the cuts will be made, Johnson said, “Any decline in dollars will result in decline in services. So we have a lot to worry about.”

And that is what the parents of sick children want to prevent as well.

“My daughter would not be here without Medicaid, She is the light of our lives, and I don’t want anything to happen to her,” said Ivonne Camarillo, Layla’s mother. The Little Village resident said her daughter, who uses a wheelchair, was born on July 4, 2011 with a congenital heart condition. That led to two open-heart surgeries, implanting a pace maker, and a feeding tube.

“She was also diagnosed with a seizure disorder,” Camarillo said. “Thanks to the services provided by Advocate Children’s Hospital, she is currently stable and improving. She receives occupational, and physical therapy, all provided by Medicaid. Everything including her wheelchair and medicines are provided by Medicaid.”

Tangela Watson also spoke about her daughter, Jamela, who sat smiling nearby.

“She loves to sing, dance and eat ice cream,” said Watson of Jamela, who has battled through surgery and chemotherapy after a rare brain tumor was found wrapped around her spinal cord last year.

“Medicaid has been a lifeline for us. I don’t know where we would be without it,” said Watson.

“The best outcome would be a “no” on the bill,” said Davis. “Medicaid truly is a vital lifeline for these children and many others.”

Farrell said that more than 30 million children nationwide, including 1.5 million in Illinois, depend on Medicaid for their medical care.

“Prevention is the cornerstone of pediatrics,” said Johnson. He pointed out that everything from lead screening and dental and vision care is federally mandated now, and in danger of being eliminated if the Medicaid funding is cut.

Johnson also said that the Medicaid cuts could even have dire repercussions for children and families not dependent on Medicaid, because if funding for immunizations is cut, doctors may decide not to offer them.

“Doctors have to buy the immunizations up front, and then wait to be reimbursed. If they stop providing immunizations, children won’t get their shots and we could be looking at a resurgence of some of these diseases we had nearly wiped out,” said Johnson.