Guest post by Jacqueline Halbig, principal at Sovereign Global Solutions and former senior policy adviser for the Dept. of Health and Human Services

Services_CSI_NICUIf Obamacare is supposed to increase health care access and affordability, why does it seem to punish those most in need? Consider minority babies, both unborn and born.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that an administration which redefines abortion as health care continues to expand funding to Planned Parenthood, which operates the nation’s largest abortion chain.

Planned Parenthood is underwritten by taxpayer dollars to the tune of $480 million ($365 million from federal funds and the rest from state and local funds). Now, under Obamacare, Medicaid expansion will further fill its coffers.

This type of funding is even more disturbing given that Planned Parenthood appears to be targeting minority populations with its abortion “services.” A 2011 study called “Racial Targeting and Population Control” by Life Dynamics Incorporated revealed that Planned Parenthood clinics are 2-1/2 times more likely to be in neighborhoods with a disproportionately high Black and Hispanic population.

But it is equally troubling that if they survive life in the womb, these babies, especially those born prematurely, now face an even greater uphill battle – receiving needed health care.

Every year between November and March, there are outbreaks of Respiratory Syncytial Virus, an illness similar to the flu.

RSV1RSV is the leading cause of pneumonia and bronchiolitis, and hospitalization for children under the age of one; premature infants and children before the age of two with congenital heart or chronic lung disease are considered to be at highest risk.

Each year RSV causes two million hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths. In addition, RSV disproportionately affects minority and especially African American babies, who, according to the Centers for Disease Control, are 59% percent more likely to be born prematurely than white infants.

While there is no vaccine for RSV, there is an FDA-approved treatment available. When it became available in 1997, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued evidence-based guidelines for its use, recommending that the treatment be administered once per month during outbreak season (an average of five months total).

But in 2009, with no clear medical evidence for doing so, the AAP both shrunk the pool of eligible infants and reduced the number of RSV treatments that would be made available – for some babies down to 3 doses, while for others as low as 1 dose. The only clear reason given was cost.

Unfortunately, the AAP’s guidelines are widely implemented by Medicaid and insurance providers, who in turn followed suit and greatly reduced coverage.

In response, concerned groups of parents, prenatal advocates, and medical providers such as the National Perinatal Association, the National Medical Association, and the National Black Nurses Association have pointed out that there is no definitive research to support these changes (indeed, these are not FDA-approved doses) and are urging the AAP to reconsider their recommendations.

If cost is the issue, let’s consider the cost of non-treatment. A 2010 study by the NMA and NBNA showed the rate of hospitalization and emergency room visits without proper treatment for RSV is astronomical.

For example, a child not properly treated for RSV is five times more likely to be hospitalized and more than twice as likely to visit an emergency room visit than with the flu.

But for those premature infants who received treatment, hospitalization decreased by 55-80%. Furthermore, infants who received the recommended treatment had decreased emergency room and physician office visits. As a result, there are cost savings associated with proper treatment.

Since RSV disproportionately affects African American, Hispanic and premature babies, there is great concern that this rationing policy will further increase health disparities in these communities.

So what’s the real benefit of limiting this treatment? If Obamacare’s objective is to make health care more accessible and affordable, an honest cost benefit analysis would respect the bottom line and acknowledge that an ounce of RSV prevention is cheaper than a pound of emergency room cure – unless their bottom line equates death as the cheapest option.

To support the children and families affected by this rationing decision, please sign this petition at Change.org.