By:  Lindsay Kalter
Source: Boston Herald

Newton teen has beaten odds thanks to help GOP may end

Newton teen Tom Geraci was born four months premature, weighing in at 1 lb., 5 oz. with legs the size of his mother’s pinky fingers. Yesterday — 14 years later — Tom met with lawmakers in D.C. to try to save the Medicaid coverage that helped hold his fragile body together, coverage that could be threatened if the GOP health care bill passes.

“I’m hoping to make America great again for kids,” Tom said. “We want to make America’s kids have great health care again.”

Tom, who is legally blind and is on the autism spectrum, has needed multiple surgeries over his short life and requires speech and physical therapies to help overcome some of his medical obstacles.

Medicaid helped cover surgeries he had on his heart, stomach and eyes as an infant — as well as the $1.3 million bill his parents received just from his 120-day stay in the neonatal intensive care unit.

The GOP Senate bill would make deep cuts to Medicaid and would significantly scale back federal subsidies, which have been crucial for coverage in states like Massachusetts.

“We qualified for Medicaid, which has allowed us to really focus on his care and not get so caught up in bills,” said Tom’s mother, Cristin, who had to quit her job to care for her son. “It’s a little scary to think about what’s to come.”

Cristin and Tom met yesterday with Massachusetts Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey and U.S. Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy III.

Tom receives most of his treatments at Franciscan Children’s Hospital in Brighton, which serves more than 12,000 patients per year. About 60 percent of the families who seek care there are covered by Medicaid, said Jennifer Atlas, director of Strategy and Special Projects at Franciscan Children’s.

“The AHCA is going to have massive cuts to Medicaid and cut children’s health funding by as much as $40 billion in the future nationwide,” Atlas said.

She added that the bill would hurt hospitals, forcing them to eat some of the costs of treatments their patients can’t afford.

“I think it would be detrimental to all children’s hospitals,” Atlas said. “It’s certainly a concern of ours.”

Gov. Charlie Baker has estimated 264,000 Massachusetts residents would lose their insurance coverage if the bill passes, and that the state would lose more than $1 billion in federal aid.

The legislation would threaten the $600 million that is part of a Medicaid waiver slated for Massachusetts under the Obama administration.

As many as 30 million children nationally and 355,000 children in Massachusetts — which is 30 percent of the state’s child population — have Medicaid coverage.