No child or young person should have to skip a doctor's appointment or go without the medicine they need because their family can't afford it. That shouldn't happen in America, and that's why the Obama Administration made children's health coverage a priority from the start.
When President Obama took office, there were 8 million uninsured kids in America, roughly two-thirds of whom were eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but were not enrolled. That was unacceptable. So one of the first bills the President signed was the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA). That law not only expanded coverage to four million additional children, it also included a range of bonuses and grants to help states and community partners strengthen their enrollment efforts.
To raise these efforts to the next level, on the first anniversary of CHIPRA, I issued the Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge: I called on Governors, Mayors, pediatricians, faith groups, school nurses, sports coaches, community organizations, and others to work with us to cover all five million children who were eligible for either CHIP or Medicaid but weren't signed up.
All over America, that call was answered, and today, with the help from States and communities, we have reduced the number of eligible but unenrolled children nationally and in every region of the country. For example, Oregon has enrolled more than 100,000 eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP over the last two years, cutting its percentage of uninsured children in half.
These are achievements we can be proud of, but we also know we can do more to give families the security of knowing their children are covered. That confidence is critically important to parents. In a national survey we conducted to find out what parents of eligible children think about Medicaid and CHIP, 70 percent said that when it comes to enrolling their child, getting "peace of mind" is a very motivating factor, as well as the knowledge that the programs are affordable. Perhaps even more important, parents told us that they value what the programs provide their children: two thirds of the parents whose children were covered said they were very satisfied with the coverage and the quality of health care their children get with Medicaid and CHIP.
While these high marks are affirming and bolster our efforts to promote Medicaid and CHIP, the survey also revealed that far too many parents still don't know their children may be eligible, may think the enrollment process is too difficult or don't know where they can apply.
This summer our Department released another $40 million in CHIPRA outreach grants to build on the grants awarded in 2009. We directed this round of funding at strategies we know are working and have the potential to do the most good. They'll support efforts to use technology in new ways to sign up eligible kids, help generate outreach activities in schools and focus attention on teens and minorities, groups for which coverage gaps still exist. And thanks to the Affordable Care Act, there will be more outreach funds available soon to support this vital work.
For more information, check out our website, www.insurekidsnow.gov , for valuable resources.
- Flyers that promote Medicaid and CHIP in English and Spanish;
- The Game Plan, a guide for engaging school and community youth sports programs in helping to enroll eligible children in health coverage, and
- Our growing Outreach Video Library that spotlights effective techniques and promising practices being used across the country to enroll eligible children and teens
Ultimately, it's people on the front lines who help make sure eligible children and their families have the security that comes with health insurance. Working together, we can move even closer to the day no child in America goes without the care they need because they don't have health insurance.
Editor's Note: Organizations can answer Secretary Sebelius' Call to Action by accepting the Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge. It's easy: Just visit www.challenge.gov/hhs/54 and follow the instructions. Those who have already accepted the challenge are encouraged to share what they are doing on the same website.