The Affordable Care Act, signed into law in March, is already beginning to protect families from some of the pains of health insurance. When the new law is fully phased in by 2014, it will help families secure affordable health coverage that can’t be taken away when they become sick or lose their job. In the meantime, most uninsured children don’t have to wait until 2014 as they are already eligible for stable, affordable health coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Although health coverage is currently available to children in families with incomes up to about $45,000 per year in nearly every state (according to HHS), an estimated 5 million uninsured children are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but not enrolled.
“Nothing is more important to our future than the health of our children. No child should have to skip a doctor’s appointment or go without the medicine they need because their family can’t pay,” said Secretary Sebelius in a news release. “I’m challenging everyone, from my state and federal counterparts, to local governments and community-based organizations, to health centers and school districts, to faith-based groups and Indian tribes, to take this conversation about children’s coverage to the next level – to find and enroll those five million kids.”
The goal of the Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge is to enroll all eligible, but unenrolled, children in Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Programs within five years.
With so many children uninsured, two questions come to mind:
- What can we do about it?
To address the “why” question, look at a Kaiser survey that found parents often lack accurate information about Medicaid/CHIP programs, don’t know how to enroll their children or find the enrollment process difficult. It doesn’t have to be that way.
To address the “what can we do” question, turn to the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, an independent research organization that has extensive experience in this area. Georgetown CCF has identified numerous strategies states can take to enroll and retain more eligible children such as:
- streamlining the application process
- making it easier for families to keep their children enrolled as long as they are eligible
- linking with other public programs in which children may be enrolled
- expanding outreach and educational efforts to inform more parents
We are proud to accept the challenge from Secretary Sebelius. We join others, such as the National Association of Children’s Hospitals, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and United Way International in this effort.