Our children expect us to do the right thing

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My father always said, “I expect you to do the right thing!” I urge all Alabama citizens to do the right thing and vote “Yes” on Sept. 18. This constitutional amendment will allow the Legislature to transfer funds from The Alabama Trust Fund (our state’s savings account) to fill dangerous shortfalls in essential programs in this state, especially Medicaid. Clearly this transfer is not an ideal solution. However, it is the only option the Alabama Legislature has made available to us. Given the dire consequences to children if we allow Medicaid to collapse, we must do the right thing: we must vote Yes.

More than 100 years ago, concerned local citizens joined together to open a hospital to ensure that children had access to quality healthcare, regardless of their parents’ ability to pay. Children’s has never wavered from that mission. Every year, more than 300,000 ill and critically injured Alabama children depend on Children’s of Alabama. As the largest provider of healthcare to our youngest citizens, we are speaking on their behalf by asking this important question: “What do our children expect of us?”

Children do not choose the circumstances into which they are born. They have no say over their parents’ employment status, their health plan or the lack thereof. As a parent and a grandparent, it seems unimaginable to me that we would ever put our children at risk. Voting “No” means we would be turning our backs on the most innocent of our people.

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It is easy to think that this is not your issue. If you have a good job and your employer provides healthcare benefits, is the collapse of Medicaid important to you? The answer is, “Absolutely!” We all have a more direct stake in this outcome than you might think.

For example, Children’s of Alabama’s ability to provide comprehensive care for all children would be severely compromised without Medicaid funding. Today when any child—yours, mine or perhaps a child in poverty—needs a pediatric oncologist, neurosurgeon, epileptologist or pulmonologist, they can be found right here at Children’s of Alabama. The math is simple. The loss of Medicaid funding, which now covers some 60 percent of our patients and about 50 percent of our overall revenue, would severely compromise our ability to provide healthcare for every child who needs us.

The impact on the pediatric front line is important, too, because without the funds to treat the State’s poorest children, the State’s critical shortage of pediatricians and family practitioners will get even worse; Again, it is children who will suffer.

Our economy is fragile, and industrial recruitment is important to Alabama. Can we effectively recruit industry to Alabama without a stable healthcare infrastructure? Will companies seriously consider locating in a state where there are few doctors and limited access to care? Alabama’s image is important in the recruiting of new industry. Sept. 18, is a chance for Alabama to show its heart to the world.

Finally, let’s think about current Alabama jobs. There are over 200,000 private sector Alabama jobs tied to the agencies funded through the General Fund. State agencies such as Transportation, Homeland Security, Public Health, Forestry and Agriculture contract with private sector companies to provide vital services to our citizens. The Alabama Hospital Association and pro-business advocacy organizations are campaigning hard to “Keep Alabama Working.” The work of the 3,700 of us at Children’s of Alabama is caring for children, so we agree. Governor Fob James and the Legislature created The Alabama Trust Fund some 30 years ago, and established a savings account or “rainy day” fund. Today, it is indeed raining—the need is clear. A “Yes” vote on Sept. 18, is a vote for children: A “YES” vote is the right thing to do.


William Michael Warren, Jr.

President and CEO of Children’s of Alabama mike.warren@childrensal.org