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HICKS: Dr. Mom sees threat in reform

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"You'd better get over here," the school secretary said. "Something's up with Katie." "Something" turned out to be a post-tonsillectomy bleed that began 11 days after surgery. It continued on and off for four days and included two ambulance rides, several long nights in the emergency department and, eventually, a 3 a.m. emergency surgery, a blood transfusion and a week in the hospital to recover.

Most families would look back and recall kindergarten. We look back and remember "Katie's tonsillectomy."

That was 15 years ago. There have been countless episodes before then and since involving my four children that brought me into the health care system to varying degrees. As any parent will attest, most of us mark time with medical stories, as in, "That was the summer Jimmy had staples in his head" and "That was the year Betsy had a stress fracture and couldn't run."

There is perhaps no greater certainty as a parent than the sure knowledge that over the course of your children's young lives, you will spend hours with them in the waiting room of the pediatrician's office or an urgent care center or the hospital emergency room.

You're likely to become "Dr. Mom" or "Dr. Dad" as you learn all you must know to make wise decisions about your child's health. Ultimately, no parenting task is more important -- or more serious -- than to monitor and maintain the health of our children.

Protecting children's health is one supposed selling point to reforming health care. On the face of it, with potentially up to 10 percent of America's children uninsured, this is one of the best reasons to overhaul aspects of our medical delivery system.

But H.R. 3200, the bill under consideration in the House, doesn't simply help parents find the resources to pay for their children's health care. It includes intrusive mechanisms to decide what that care ought to be. And despite promises that those of us who are happy with our private insurance can keep it, the fine print in this bill forces even private insurers to alter the care we may choose for our children.

According to Devon Herrick, a health industry economist and fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, this health care overhaul will affect parents' decision-making roles for their children.

"It isn't meant to only reform our health care system," he says. "It's meant to remold it entirely. And in that way, you can imagine that the law of unintended consequences may take over. It will inject larger bureaucracies into all aspects of health care - ALL aspects - and in that regard this bill definitely does impact choice."

Mr. Herrick warns of "mission creep" in the legislation, too. Ideas such as voluntary home visitor programs, meant to fund state-based parenting and child-development education for underserved populations, may ultimately promote state sponsored "best practices" in parenting our children.

Um ... Welcome to Stepford, everyone, where all the children are healthy and happy because the government makes it so.

Given President Obama's recent comment about doctors' money motives behind tonsillectomies, perhaps he would have eliminated our option to have the surgery that caused us such worry all those years ago. But in reality, given the risks, no doctor does this surgery anymore unless it's absolutely necessary - and no parent would allow it, either, if it weren't needed.

Every mom or dad waiting outside a surgical suite or watching a hospital monitor measuring a child's every labored breath will attest that our interest in the well-being of our children is God-given and supreme. As such, our roles in their care must be respected.

But you won't find any language like that in the thousand-plus pages of H.R. 3200.

Visit Marybeth Hicks at www. marybethhicks.com.