My name is Tom Hayhurst and I am the medical director of the Multi-County Medical Outreach Clinic in Columbia City. We are health care volunteers who provide free medical care to individuals between ages 18 and 65 who are either uninsured or underinsured. This includes those with very large insurance deductibles. These volunteer services are provided with considerable support from Parkview Health and Parkview Whitley, which we greatly appreciate. You might ask — why is the age cutoff at 18?
Here is the reason: every child in the U.S. should have health insurance either through the private sector or the public sector. The federal Children’s Health Insurance Program, CHIP, combined with Medicaid, makes this possible. I am writing about CHIP because in the current political environment, it is always possible that our elected federal officials could decide to revoke this important legislation.
Until the late 1990s when CHIP was passed, many children had no health insurance whatsoever. This meant that they often were not receiving adequate immunizations or treatment for acute illnesses. For example, prior to this legislation — which guarantees health care for every kid in the United States — lack of a medical appointment and $10 worth of antibiotic treatment for a child with a strep throat might have resulted in the complication of rheumatic fever and permanent heart valve damage.
As I mentioned, CHIP helps make sure that all children have health insurance. In our society, having health insurance is a necessary prerequisite for kids’ good health. Otherwise, parents may be tempted to delay health care for their children if they fear being hit with health care expenditures they can’t afford. CHIP legislation was originally passed in the late 1990s. It has been re-authorized multiple times since then. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 extended this legislation through 2027. Every now and then we do see children younger than the age of 18 at our free health clinic.
For example, parents sometimes bring small children when the mother and children have lost their health insurance following a divorce or similar event. We always encourage and assist parents to apply for CHIP or Medicaid coverage for their children as soon as possible in that situation.
There is no question in my mind that this important legislation is absolutely necessary in the USA. If it were not for CHIP and Medicaid, many Hoosier children would be going without immunizations and other important medical care. That would be intolerable in our civilized nation. At least 40,000 adult U.S. citizens die every year because they have no health insurance, and therefore delay necessary medical care. That figure is well documented in independent studies. I look forward to the time when our society and our government will assure that all Americans have affordable health insurance. When that happens, the Multi-County Medical Outreach Clinic and hundreds of similar free clinics throughout the country will no longer be needed. All of our volunteer health care providers will have done their job and everyone in our country, including kids, will be much better off.
Dr. Tom Hayhurst
Medical director, Multi-County Medical Outreach Clinic