Dr. Joseph Wright ’79 had an opportunity in July to deliver a message personally to President Barack Obama: Just because children are covered by health insurance doesn’t mean they have access to a physician.
Wright, who is senior vice president at the Children’s National Medical Center, as well as professor and vice–chair of pediatrics and of emergency medicine and health policy at the George Washington University Schools of Medicine and Public Health, was one of six healthcare professionals invited to participate in a round–table discussion with President Obama at the Children’s National Medical Center on July 20.
Wright described the event as an opportunity for the president to share some information regarding his healthcare reform agenda, as well as to gain a greater understanding of pediatric healthcare in America from its providers. Specifically, said Wright, Obama asked questions seeking greater understanding of how children fit into the three–part healthcare equation of cost, coverage, and quality that he describes.
“I made sure to emphasize that the job isn’t over,” says Wright, noting that even though the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act was signed into law last February, expanding eligibility and funding for the State Children’s Health Insurance Plan (or S–CHIP), it is still insufficient. “The bottom line is, that due to inadequate rates of reimbursement, not all providers accept publically issued forms of insurance like Medicaid; so lots of kids don’t have access to a physician, even though on paper they may be covered. Instead the ?doctor of choice’ becomes the emergency room. We’ve experienced a significant bump in our emergency room use—and it’s indicative of what is happening everywhere in the country.”
Immediately following the closed–door meeting, the president presented a speech on national healthcare policy. Wright was gratified to note that Obama incorporated specific examples that the medical colleagues had shared just moments before. Furthermore, Wright feels confident that the president will keep the Children’s National Medical Center—and the concerns of the country’s pediatricians—in his sights. “It doesn’t hurt that we’re just three–and–a–half miles from the White House, and that the President and First Lady Michelle Obama are the parents of two young children, 11 and 8,” he notes.