TAMPA - Four-year-old Jaden Vidal is a firecracker, riding through Tampa International Airport. You'd never know he has a life threatening medical condition. His mom, Belkis Velazquez, explains, "The left side was unfortunately under developed so he has half a heart. He has had three open heart surgeries at St. Joseph's Hospital, and he gets continued care at The Complex Care Clinic."
He's on his way to Washington, D.C. with mom and dad to advocate for the clinic that's helped keep him alive and healthy. Keri Eisenbeis is the Director of Government Relations for St. Joseph's Children's Hospital. "It really serves as a medical home for children who have medically threatening conditions. Kids like Jaden who have a need for multiple medical pediatric specialists."
With as many as one thousand patients, the clinic is the largest of its kind in the United States. These are the faces of their success, but it's costly.
Eisenbeis says, "A lot of the kids who go to The Chronic and Complex Clinic are covered by Medicaid, so when we keep them healthier, which is our number one priority, we reduce their costs. We reduce their hospitalizations, we reduce their length of stay and we keep them out of the ER.
But the clinic itself is operating at a loss, so, this trip to Washington is about money. Eisenbeis says, "We need to change the way these clinics are paid."
Right now, Eisenbeis says the clinic gets reimbursed the same amount per visit that a healthy child gets for routine visits to their doctor.
These kids have complicated health problems, and she says the amount allowed for specialized care should be increased.
Legislation is already underway to help clinics like this and keep kids like Jaden surviving and thriving and living out their dreams.