July 15, 2017 – This week, 12-year-old Natalia Ricabal joined nearly 50 other pediatric patients from across the United States on Capitol Hill to urge their members of Congress to protect, not cut, children’s Medicaid funding as proposed in recently introduced federal bills, the American Health Care Act of 2017 and the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.
Natalia was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, in August 2013. Her treatment required multiple surgeries, including a limb salvage procedure in which her femur was replaced with a cadaver bone, a year of aggressive chemotherapy, a month of daily radiation treatment, and substantial physical therapy.
Her family traveled to Washington D.C. as part of the Children’s Hospital Association’s annual Family Advocacy Day. The July 11-14 trip included one-on-one meetings with U.S. Representatives Gus Bilirakis, Vern Buchanan, Kathy Castor, Charlie Crist, Dennis Ross, Darren Soto and Senator Bill Nelson; a tour of Washington D.C.; and a celebratory dinner to honor the children and their families.
“Medicaid is a lifeline for Natalia and our family,” said Amy Ricabal, Natalia’s mother. “We hope that sharing our experiences with having a child with complex medical needs will help policymakers recognize the importance of protecting and preserving current Medicaid funding, coverage and benefits for the 30 million kids like Natalia who rely on it for medical care.”
The Ricabals discussed with lawmakers their experiences with having a child with special health care needs and how Florida’s Children’s Medical Services program provided the coverage and benefits Natalia required to survive the life-threatening diagnosis. Together, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and the family asked members of Congress to keep children’s health care needs, particularly Medicaid coverage for kids, in the forefront when considering reforming our health care system.
“Medicaid is the largest insurer of children in the state of Florida,” said Keri Eisenbeis, director of Government Relations for BayCare and St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital. “Weakening or undermining this program through arbitrary caps and limitations, runs the risk of restricting care for kids across our community, state and country.”
About St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital
As Tampa’s only dedicated children’s hospital, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital is committed to providing everything needed for the health and well-being of children. Part of the BayCare Health System, St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital provides more acute medical and surgical pediatric care than all other hospitals in Hillsborough County. From the tiniest baby to the high school quarterback, patients are cared for by doctors who specialize in treating children, in surroundings designed exclusively for kids.