Panelists press for children’s-health programs, lament Trump proposals

by BRIAN TROMPETER, Staff Writer  Oct 16, 2017 Updated Oct 16, 2017

by BRIAN TROMPETER, Staff Writer  Oct 16, 2017 Updated Oct 16, 2017

Panelists Barbara Favola, Shelby Gonzales and Lisa Tatum discuss local, state and federal programs Oct. 13 at the Medical Care for Children Partnership Foundation's 2017 State of Children's Health Breakfast, held at the Inova Center for Personalized Health in Fairfax. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)

Panelists Barbara Favola, Shelby Gonzales and Lisa Tatum discuss local, state and federal programs Oct. 13 at the Medical Care for Children Partnership Foundation's 2017 State of Children's Health Breakfast, held at the Inova Center for Personalized Health in Fairfax. (Photo by Brian Trompeter)

President Trump’s recent executive orders regarding health care may lead to reduced coverage or higher premium costs, panelists said Oct. 13 at the Medical Care for Children Partnership Foundation’s 2017 State of Children’s Health Breakfast.

“I was extremely discouraged,”  said Shelby Gonzales, board member of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, regarding the president’s announcements the previous day.

Trump’s executive orders outlined national policy objectives that would create pathways for insurers to provide minimal coverage and expand the use of short-term health plans, which offer fewer consumer protections, said Gonzales, who delivered her remarks at the Inova Center for Personalized Health in Fairfax.

Many younger and healthier people might be attracted to those short-term health plans, thus taking away business from more comprehensive coverage programs and causing the financial risk pool to deteriorate, Gonzales said.

MCCP Foundation board member Ann Sullivan, the discussion’s moderator, said Trump’s declarations likely would not take effect for a long time.

“I took it more as a political statement,” Sullivan said, adding that both Congress and the president bore some responsibility for the health-care crunch.

Mary Beth Testa, a policy consultant with Richmond-based Voices for Virginia’s Children, told the audience how the non-profit group works to reduce the immediate effects of poverty and ultimately to eliminate that condition.

The group focuses on racial and economic concerns so all children in Virginia have the opportunity to succeed, Testa said.

Childhood trauma is another of the key issues underpinning the organization’s work.

“We believe we’re at a pivotal time in the commonwealth for really addressing childhood trauma and building on the momentum of local work and the efforts of direct-service providers to make some policy changes in this area,” she said.

Virginia has made progress, albeit very slowly, in addressing that issue, she said.

Voices for Virginia’s Children leaders remain concerned about poverty in the state. About 44,000 more Virginia children live in poverty now than during the economic recession nine years ago, Testa said.

About 95 percent of children in the commonwealth are covered by health insurance, but roughly 100,000 still are not enrolled, Testa said.

“For children to succeed in school and in life, they have to be healthy,” she said.

Testa urged the audience to vote on Nov. 7 and press political candidates ahead of Election Day for their plans to deal with pressing concerns for Virginia’s children. She left the audience with three messages:

• Good things are happening regarding childhood poverty, trauma and health coverage.

 • A lot more resources still are needed for those efforts.

• Everyone needs to participate for those initiatives to succeed.

Panelists at the event also briefed the those present on federal, state and local social-services initiatives.

The goal of such programs is to have recipients become self-sufficient, said state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st).

Favola also was concerned about mental-health issues in Virginia and lamented that the state had not expanded Medicaid coverage. Doing so would have allowed 75,000 people to be eligible for Medicaid benefits as soon symptoms of mental-health problems began to manifest themselves.

Favola also has submitted legislation to provide on-site mental-health services in schools.

“We desperately want to provide more services early on,” she said. “You really don’t have physical health without mental health.”