Rupin R. Thakkar, MD, FAAP
President, Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics
As we ring in the new year, we prepare to advocate for kids with new state and federal legislatures and new leaders within the AAP. Particularly exciting is that one of our own members, Dr. Kim Schrier, will start her term as the first pediatrician to serve in the US House of Representatives. And, our former chapter president, Dr. Kyle Yasuda, will begin his term as national president of the AAP.
Each year we can map out some of our priorities. At this time last year, we knew we would be pursuing legislation that expanded access to behavioral health and increased the Medicaid rate for pediatric care. We succeeded with both. But, when legislation to limit children’s access to firearms failed to pass once again, we didn’t know that months later we would achieve that, and many other measures towards firearm safety, via a ballot initiative.
Due to limited resources and a strong partnership with the AAP, we primarily focus our advocacy efforts on the state level. But, for the second year in a row, we found ourselves unexpectedly having to make a strong push against federal policies that would harm kids. Two years ago it was protecting the Affordable Care Act, and this past year it was fighting against separating immigrant families and against changes to public charge determination.
This year we know that we will strive to achieve full parity in Medicaid to Medicare payment rates for pediatric primary care, subspecialty care, and behavioral health. We will also advocate to increase the minimum age of purchase of tobacco and nicotine products to 21. And as always, we will need to be prepared to advocate for the health and safety of children in ways we cannot anticipate. With a wonderfully engaged membership and committed and hardworking leadership, I know we will be able to look back on 2019 with the same pride we enjoyed in 2018.