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Jenna Intersimone | Wochit
NORTH BRUNSWICK – A township family is among those taking their stories to Capitol Hill this week to urge Congress to protect children’s Medicaid funding as proposed in recently introduced federal bills, the American Health Care Act of 2017 and the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.
Shanette and Khalil Pereira, 22, will speak Thursday with members of the New Jersey delegation, including U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez and U.S. Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J. District 12), Leonard Lance (R-N.J. District 7) and Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J. District 6).
They will share how Medicaid coverage benefitted Khalil’s care and how the House and Senate health care bills could negatively affect their lives and the lives of children, like Pereira, receiving care at Children’s Specialized Hospital.
Khalil, who at the time was living in North Plainfield, was a first-year student at Fairleigh Dickinson University. While driving home from college with a friend in October 2013, the car was in an accident on the Garden State Parkway in Paterson.
Pereira, a back-seat passenger, went through the windshield. At age 18, he suffered a severe traumatic brain injury. He spent weeks in intensive care and six months at Children’s Specialized Hospital’s acute inpatient rehabilitation facility in New Brunswick, learning to walk, talk, eat, breathe on his own and regain control of his body.
Khalil relied on Medicaid to cover cranioplasty surgery, neurosurgeon visits, outpatient therapies, transportation and other care vital to his recovery.
“It was not an easy haul,” Shanette, said. “Khalil was on Medicaid at the time of the crash. When the accident occurred, I was told he would be using the other kid’s auto insurance, but by the time Khalil arrived at Children’s Specialized Hospital, that was already exhausted.”
While Shanette’s first concern was for the health and well-being of her son, the single mom working part time grew concerned about his medical bills.
“I got a little nervous,” she said. “I was thinking how in the world am I going to pay for this. I was sitting on the edge. That’s when Medicaid came in and picked up the cost of his care. If I didn’t have this insurance, I don’t know what I would have done.”
Shanette said she is sharing her story with legislators because she wants them to know how important Medicaid is and to hear how it really saves lives.
“Medicaid is very important to children,” she said. “I thought for me and my family it was a lifeline. It allowed my son to get the care he needed and get the surgeries. I truly appreciate having this insurance. If it was cut, I say to myself how would my son have achieved all these goals. It’s given me my son back.”
Khalil, who was studying to be a nurse, is now working in a nursing home in Old Bridge.
“Next year, we’re hoping to get him back in college,” Shanette said.
The Pereiras’ effort in Washington is part of a national push to address key health care needs for children through the Speak Now for Kids Family Advocacy Day, sponsored by the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA).
Of the nearly 1.8 million New Jerseyans enrolled in Medicaid, more than 800,000 are children who receive their health care through Medicaid and CHIP, according to a statement.
At Children’s Specialized Hospital, nearly 50 percent of the children who received care in 2016 were covered by Medicaid.
According to a recent report by Avalere Health, the U.S. House-passed American Health Care Act, on which the Senate bill was modeled, would cut Medicaid funding for children by at least $43 billion over 10 years by replacing the existing Medicaid payment system with a capped system that limits Medicaid funding to states, the statement said.
“The families of the children we treat are facing major health care challenges and uncertainty about their child’s future. It is critical to protect Medicaid to allow these families to focus their full attention on their child’s care and recovery,” said Warren E. Moore, FACHE, president and CEO of Children’s Specialized Hospital.
“Protecting Medicaid and reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program are top priorities for Children’s Specialized Hospital. Each year, we see more and more children like Khalil who rely on Medicaid to access highly specialized care from multiple providers in different care settings.”
For more information on Family Advocacy Day, visit www.childrenshospitals.org or follow the families on Facebook, www.facebook.com/speaknowforkids, and Twitter, @speaknowforkids.
Staff Writer Susan Loyer: 732-565-7243; firstname.lastname@example.org