How will the healthcare reform bill affect the PICU?

By now everybody knows that the Senate passed a healthcare reform bill last week. The House passed such a bill last month. The bills differ in important respects, and of course it is still unclear if the two bills will be reconciled in conference committee to produce a bill that both houses will pass. If a final conference bill does pass, it will have ground-breaking effects on medical care. What might change in the PICU?

My first-blush answer is that it will have important effects for me, my colleagues, and our patients, but not so much as it might for other aspects of medical practice. Why do I say that? First, look at where our current healthcare dollars come from (source is here):

Private insurance: 35%
Medicare: 19%
Medicaid and SCHIP: 15%
Other public funds: 12%
Other private funds: 7%
Out-of-pocket: 12%

These figures are for the entire system. As I’ve written before, the PICU is different — very different. Around half of children in the PICU already are covered by Medicaid, the joint federal/state program for children of poor families. This startling statistic is a reflection of the fact that poor children are far more likely than are affluent children to end up in the PICU.

But even though half the children in America’s PICUs are on Medicaid, half are not, and the healthcare reform bill can have a major impact on them, especially those from families who are presently uninsured. A PICU bill can bankrupt those families. This bill will reduce the number of times that will happen, and I think that is a good thing.


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