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Lawmaker pushes 'common-sense' interventions for kids with asthma

Asthma attacks can be terror-inducing for children and parents, and often require intensive respiratory treatment and ongoing medication. But simple, practical interventions can also make a big difference.

HF1793, sponsored by Rep. Kelly Morrison (DFL-Deephaven), would make these interventions more accessible for children on Medical Assistance by providing coverage for environmental assessments of the children’s homes and allergen-reducing products – like vacuum cleaners, dehumidifiers, pest-control supplies, or bed and pillow encasements – to eliminate triggers and mitigate symptoms.

The House Health Finance and Policy Committee laid it over Friday for possible inclusion in an omnibus bill. There is no Senate companion.

The interventions cost an average of $468, but save an average of $2,428 per child, Morrison said.

“It’s time to pass this common-sense bill,” she said. “Everyone wins: children with asthma, their families, health care providers, and insurers and taxpayers.”

To receive these covered services, children would need to be under age 21; have received a referral from a health care provider; and have received asthma care from a hospital emergency department, or been hospitalized for asthma treatment, at least once in the previous year.

In Ramsey County – where these services are already provided through the county’s “Healthy Homes” program – low-income children are the most likely to be hospitalized for asthma, county commissioner Nicole Frethem said.

“A typical child referred to our program has multiple emergency room visits every year. Four to six visits is not uncommon. And estimated costs for each ER treatment are between $2,500 and $3,000,” Frethem said. “This does not include the additional costs the family bears.”

But after intervention – usually costing between $600 and $700 in Ramsey County – families do “much better” managing their children’s asthma, rarely returning to the emergency room.

“There is that much improvement from one or two home visits and simply providing these … products,” Frethem said. “This work makes a real difference in the short- and long-term health and well-being of the kids we work with.”

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