Dr. Jennifer Howse, president of the March of Dimes, issued the following statement on the proposed budget that the Administration released yesterday:
"The budget proposal released by the Administration this morning opens the door to the elimination of critical health services for the most vulnerable women, infants and children. The March of Dimes strongly opposes any attempt to narrow Medicaid benefits for these at risk groups. Medicaid is the single most important source of coverage for maternity services, accounting for 1.4 million (37%) of births in hospitals, and the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) program is a lifeline for millions of low income infants and children. Many of these children, such as the recent March of Dimes National Ambassador who needed multiple surgeries before reaching school age, require extensive treatment. Watching these children grow and develop seems a miracle, a miracle often the result of Medicaid and EPSDT services. We should be strengthening, not weakening this program so essential to the health of mothers and children.
"The March of Dimes is very pleased that President Bush proposes increased funding for community health centers. These centers are an important source of maternal and child health services, particularly in rural communities and inner cities. Women of child-bearing age comprise 30% of the patient population receiving health care at these centers. However, we are troubled about the impact the proposed Medicaid budget changes could have on the viability of these centers that depend on funding from that program. In 2003, for example, nearly 36% of the patients seeking care at community health centers were insured through Medicaid.
"While the March of Dimes is pleased that the President's budget recognizes the importance of investing in research through the National Institutes of Health, the recommended increase of less than 1% in funding for 2006 is woefully inadequate to support the nation's biomedical research needs. For example, a recent report from the National Center for Health Statistics concluded that nearly two-thirds (61%) of the 2001-2002 increase in the infant mortality rate is attributable to the growing problem of low birth-weight and pre-term births. The March of Dimes is deeply concerned that constraining the NIH research budget will make it impossible to fund important scientific investigations that will lead us to the interventions needed to reverse this disturbing trend and to address a broad array of other critical research questions concerning maternal and newborn disease and disability.
"The March of Dimes is also very concerned about the proposed elimination of all funding earmarked for newborn screening. The Foundation has long supported screening for early detection and treatment of both metabolic disorders and hearing deficiencies in newborns. Every day about 11,000 babies are born in the United States, two-thirds of whom do not receive the full panel of simple and lifesaving tests recommended by the March of Dimes. This is not the time to cut federal support for these vital tests.
"The March of Dimes is pleased that President Bush included in his budget a series of tax proposals designed to encourage charitable giving. Tax incentives hold promise as a stimulus for increasing the resources that charities, including the March of Dimes, can devote to strengthening our communities and improving the health of children and families."