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They say that timing is everything.  If that’s true, doesn’t it make sense to tell someone about how to sign up for health insurance when she needs it the most?  And, when we’re enrolling a family in a health insurance program, shouldn’t we help them understand how to use those benefits to ensure their child stays healthy?  That’s the idea behind the exciting new initiative the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services is launching today.  The Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge – our national initiative to reach out and enroll all eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP -- is teaming up with Text4Baby, a free service that texts pregnant women and new moms to provide key health messages timed to their baby’s due date and key milestones in the infant’s development.  Making this link emphasizes how access to both health coverage and health information is critically important for families.

We chose the month of February to get this new partnership underway, in honor of both our anniversaries:  Text4Baby is celebrating its second birthday, and three years ago this month, the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act, or CHIPRA, was enacted.  Since CHIPRA became law, we’ve seen significant progress.  As our most recent anniversary report highlights, in 2011 alone, more than 1.5 million eligible children gained health coverage through Medicaid and CHIP. What’s more, States made great strides in modernizing and streamlining the ways families can enroll and renew coverage for their children, with a growing number of states using new technology to make the process easier.  Yet, there still are millions of eligible children who are missing out on the advantages of health coverage.  Our new partnership provides one new and innovative ways to reach many of them.

On Valentine’s Day, more than 184,000 current Text4Baby users received a new message alerting them to the availability of free and low-cost health coverage through Medicaid and CHIP and how to enroll.  Going forward, pregnant women and new moms will get messages about Medicaid and CHIP when Text4Baby sends tips about the importance of prenatal care, and the value of well-baby check-ups and getting care when a child is sick.  Connecting Kids to Coverage partners across the country are co-branding outreach materials and websites and taking other steps to alert families to Text4Baby when they help them sign up for Medicaid and CHIP.

Launch events are taking place all over the country, including Newark,, Oklahoma City, Baton Rouge, San Diego, Grand Rapids, Miami and other locations. And new procedures are being put in place to make the dual outreach efforts part of the routine.  For example:

  • In Florida, the State’s Vital Statistics office will print information about Text4Baby and Florida Healthy Kids (the State’s children’s health coverage program) right on the envelopes used to mail birth certificates to families of new babies.
  • In Oklahoma, hospitals will encourage new mothers to sign up for Text4Baby at the same time they enroll newborns into Medicaid.  Check out the video on our InsureKidsNow website about the state’s electronic enrollment process and imagine how Text4Baby will enhance the experience for new mothers.
  • In Massachusetts, Health Care for All consumer helpline counselors will share Text4Baby with mothers and pregnant women who call for help with health coverage.

We are anticipating that great things will come of our new partnership because we are confident that mothers and children will benefit when we help them put two and two together.  Natasha Robinson, from Lansing, Michigan, a mom who found her way to both Medicaid and Text4Baby wrote:

“Moms like me are the reason why this makes sense… I enrolled in Medicaid after a visit to the emergency room that told me I was pregnant … I had no idea what to expect while I was pregnant, or even if it was safe to take Tylenol when I had a headache… I was so appreciative of the small reminders that were sent throughout the months. Those regular messages made me stop and think about how I could use the great coverage I had through Medicaid to its fullest potential and how to establish healthy behaviors.”

Visit us at www.InsureKidsNow.gov for outreach materials and ideas for promoting enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP, and visit www.text4baby.org  for information about this new and innovative program.

Editor's note: Check out the blogposts below to read stories from real parents who enrolled their kids in health coverage program, from the people who work with parents and guardians to help get kids enrolled, and from policy advocates who break down the law to bring you the facts. Then let us know what you think in the comments. Thank you!

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