Ensuring special care for kids
You may not realize it, but we are very fortunate to have in our region one of the premier children's hospitals in the country. The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia was the country's first hospital to exclusively care for children, and it has remained one of the best for more than 150 years.
In a recent survey, the hospital was rated No. 1 in six separate pediatric specialties and ranked no lower than fourth in another four specialty categories. Other children around the country aren't so fortunate to have access to excellent doctors. A study in the journal Pediatrics found that more than 8 million children have no pediatrician in their area. Many other sick children have to drive hundreds of miles to see a doctor who specializes in treating their condition.
Children aren't just miniature adults, and treating them isn't just a matter of working on a smaller scale and shrinking the equipment. A doctor who is experienced in treating adults may not be able to apply that same expertise to a child. Treating children is both a medical and an emotional challenge. Often, doctors have to correctly diagnose an illness in little patients who haven't even learned to speak. It takes a special person to go into pediatrics.
For a time in the 1990s, our nation was facing an acute shortage of pediatricians. With much of government assistance to train doctors being funneled through the Medicare program, it was becoming significantly more expensive for a doctor to choose to be trained in pediatrics.
To help correct this imbalance, Congress created the Children's Hospital Graduate Medical Education program. This is a program that was created and has been sustained with bipartisan support. Unfortunately, the program is facing elimination.
President Obama's budget for the 2012 fiscal year called for elimination of the program, despite the positive results. I support getting rid of programs that are duplicative or unnecessary, especially with the budget pressures we are facing now. However, CHGME has proven results.
More than 40 percent of pediatricians in the U.S. are trained through CHGME. Forty-three percent of those in subspecialties are trained through the program. Locally, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia runs the largest pediatric residency program in the country. These residents will treat children in our community and then move across the country to practice. We need their expertise now more than ever.
The Department of Health and Human Services is spending billions of dollars on unproven health programs. Our priority should be funding something that works and that saves the lives of the most vulnerable patients.
Last Congress, I took over the leadership of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health. I worked with my Democratic counterpart on the subcommittee, Rep. Frank Pallone, of New Jersey, to introduce legislation to renew the program. Our legislation passed the House of Representatives with a voice vote and the strong support of the Children's Hospital Association.
Unfortunately, the bill was tied up in the Senate and was not considered. Congressman Pallone and I wasted no time in reintroducing the bill this year. In the very first meeting of the Energy and Commerce Committee last week, the bill was approved with unanimous support of Republicans and Democrats.
Over the next few years, the federal government will spend billions of dollars on the various unproven programs contained in the president's health care bill. Meanwhile, he wants to cut a program that is working. That's just not right. I believe we can set aside some of this new spending to keep funding CHGME.
Far too many children in our nation already lack access to a pediatrician or a doctor trained in a pediatric subspecialty. Without CHGME, we will once again be discouraging medical residents from choosing pediatrics.
Nearly two years ago, I met Anna Lipsman, who was receiving treatment for leukemia at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. While doctors continue to monitor her health, she is happy, energetic and in school full time. She continues to remind me about what is at stake.
U.S. Rep. Joe Pitts, a Republican, represents the 16th Congressional District. It includes all of Lancaster County, southern Chester County and a portion of southwest Berks County. His column runs the first Sunday of every month.