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News / Health / Clark County Health

Herrera Beutler’s health bills advance

Both bills have an emphasis on kids, bipartisan support

By Calley Hair, Columbian staff writer
Published: April 7, 2019, 7:02pm

U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, continued her focus on child-centric policy with the advancement of two bills last week.

The first, the ACE Kids Act, was included in a broader Medicaid package and would help make it easier for children with complex medical conditions to seek care across state lines. The second, The Family Savings for Kids and Seniors Act, would allow families to more than double the amount they can set aside in pre-tax accounts to care for dependents.

The ACE Kids Act passed Congress on March 25 and is headed to President Donald Trump’s desk. It would improve the coordination of resources for parents with medically complex children — that is, children who often need to seek services from different specialists across state lines.

Around 2 million kids in the United States who rely on Medicaid are classified as “medically complex.”

“Children who face complex medical diagnoses shouldn’t be restricted from accessing the best available care simply because Medicaid won’t cover out-of-state expenses. I’m pleased we took a big step in the U.S. House to improve access to care for families across the nation who are struggling to afford life-saving treatment for their kids,” Herrera Beutler said in a media release. “I won’t give up on this important solution until we get it across the finish line.”

H.R. 3325 was first introduced by Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas. Herrera Beutler was among five original co-sponsors of the bill, a list that also includes three Democrats.

The ACE Kids Act establishes a state Medicaid option to pay for “coordinated care provided through a health home (i.e., a designated provider or team of health-care professionals),” according to the text of the bill. It increases the federal matching rate by 20 percentage points.

Dr. Jeff Sperring, CEO of Seattle Children’s Hospital, said in the media release that kids with highly specialized medical needs often need to cross state lines for care.

“However, children face barriers to effective care coordination because policies vary state by state. The ACE Kids Act will improve access to the full range of pediatric providers, from primary care to specialized providers like Seattle Children’s, while at the same time providing additional Medicaid data to ensure care is standardized, more reliable, and safer,” Sperring said.

The second bill, The Family Savings for Kids and Seniors Act, would increase the limit of pre-tax income that families can store in Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts to pay for child care, or day care for senior dependents.

Under current law, families can put up to $5,000 in those accounts, a cap that hasn’t budged since 1986. If the bill becomes law, that cap jumps to $11,300.

The act is co-sponsored by Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif.

“I’m proud to join this bipartisan effort to offer families in Southwest Washington the ability to save money as they care for their kids and other dependent relatives,” Herrera Beutler said in a media release. “I’ll continue to work on commonsense measures like this that allow working families to keep more of their hard-earned money.”

Over five terms in Congress, Herrera Beutler has focused on maternal and child health. She gave birth to two children as a sitting congresswoman, including one who was born with complex medical needs. She is currently pregnant with a third (the only other woman in history to give birth to three children while serving in the House is a fellow Washington Republican, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Spokane.)

Over the last few months, Herrera Beutler’s leaned especially hard into family issues.

In addition to the two aforementioned bills, last month she introduced the Child Care Workforce and Facilities Act, which is aimed at easing “child care deserts” by providing $100 million more in federal funds for day care facilities and child care workers in areas that lack them. Late last year, her Preventing Maternal Deaths Act — which establishes a federal grant program for states investigating pregnancy-related deaths — was signed into law.

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Columbian staff writer