Austin family taking fight for Medicaid funds to Capitol Hill

Two-year-old Apollo Howell has a birth defect and chronic illness. (KXAN Photo)
Two-year-old Apollo Howell has a birth defect and chronic illness. (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — One Austin family is taking their story to Capitol Hill to urge Congress to protect — not cut — children’s Medicaid funding as proposed in the American Health Care Act of 2017.

The Howell family’s effort in Washington, D.C. will be part of a national push to address key health care needs for children through the Children’s Hospital Association’s annual Family Advocacy Day.

Of the more than 30 million kids enrolled in Medicaid, at least 2 million have medical conditions like congenital heart disease, cerebral palsy and cancer.

Two-year-old Apollo Howell was born with a malformation of his trachea and esophagus. At just 4 months old, Apollo had emergency surgery to rebuild his airway. He’s been through dozens of surgeries, ER visits and hospitalizations.

Today, Apollo eats through a tube, battles chronic lung disease and requires ongoing medical care which he receives at the Children’s Comprehensive Care Clinic and Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas.

“It threatens his life to not have medicaid, absolutely,” said Apollo’s mom, Kate Robinson-Howell. “And it absolutely threatens his development.”

The Howell family qualifies for Medicaid through a Texas program that covers children with chronic conditions. The American Health Care Act, which recently passed the U.S. House, would cut children’s Medicaid funding by $43 billion over the next 10 years by eliminating Medicaid’s open entitlement and replacing it with a capped system that limits Medicaid funding to states.

“I think that’s my main message to [Senator] Cruz and [Senator] Cornyn, people are losing their homes, people are going bankrupt everyday because there is not enough funding for medicaid already,” Robinson-Howell said.

Apollo’s parents are worried if the Senate’s version of the bill is approved, Apollo and other kids like him would lose health care coverage needed for his crucial medical attention and therapies.

“Maybe we can we give a different point off view that maybe gives a different perspective that they haven’t heard yet and to give a real face on some of the people that have actually benefited from this,” said Robert Howell, Apollo’s dad.

On KXAN News at 5 p.m., hear more about Apollo’s needs and why his family believes traveling to the nation’s capital to meet with lawmakers is worth it.

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