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Today, the Biden administration announced $49 million in grants to help community groups get more families and children on health insurance — especially more than half of the 4 million uninsured children. across the country who qualify for free coverage through Medicaid or CHIP, the Children’s Health Insurance Program. .
“This is our largest investment yet in this type of initiative,” said Chiquita Brooks-Lasure, head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “So many children, even if they are eligible, don’t know it – their parents don’t know they are eligible for coverage – there is still a lot to do in terms of education.”
She points to the Biden administration’s successes in boosting private insurance enrollment by investing in outreach workers who can walk people through the enrollment process — one on one — for free. “It’s the same thing we’re trying to do here with the Connecting Kids to Coverage initiative — really making sure we’re using trusted messengers,” she says.
“It’s great news that these grants are coming out – they’re badly needed now as we have this looming crisis with regard to children who are no longer insured,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown Center for Children and Families. The looming crisis is this: When the COVID-19 public health emergency ends, states will begin to relax for a two-year period in which no one has had to prove they are still eligible for insurance. free disease.
The process, which is likely to be chaotic in many places, could result in the loss of coverage for 6.7 million children now on Medicaid, according to an estimate by the center. Some will lose their coverage because they no longer qualify. Others will lose coverage due to administrative errors or missing documents.
It’s clear to Alker that federal health officials working on this file understand that the impending crisis that could lead to millions more uninsured children “is a very big deal,” she says, and the announcement Tuesday’s grant history is proof of that. “I clearly think the Biden administration dug under the couch to get that amount out this year.”
Society is not doing well if the country’s children don’t have health insurance, Alker adds. A broken arm in a playground can spell financial disaster for a family. Missed wellness visits can mean missed developmental checks, routine vaccinations, or checking conditions like asthma. “We have a lot of research to show that it is very, very cost-effective to provide health insurance to children – in the long run, it will pay many dividends to society,” she says.
Insurance for children works a little better than insurance for the rest of the population in the United States In 2020, about 94% of children were insured, thanks in large part to Medicaid and CHIP. Low-income families can get full coverage for their children free of charge and can enroll any time of the year.
The challenge for community outreach workers across the country is to spread the word – to find families who think they are ineligible and guide them through the process. That means showing up at summer block parties and street fairs and trying to let as many families as possible who need coverage know that they can get help registering.
In the coming months, the $1.5 million grant to the Greater Flint Health Coalition will mean outreach workers can attend Genesee County’s “back-to-school fairs, any kind of meet-the-teacher night.” , in kindergarten,” said Nichole Smith-Anderson, the organization’s director of special projects. “We’ve also worked closely with schools where, while their children are dealing with enrollment information, we have a quick question that says, ‘Do you need help with healthcare coverage? that parents can fill out, and then we can get in touch with them that way.”
Obtaining parent contact information and following up after back-to-school events is often easier than trying to register on the spot, notes Emily Roller, director of health insurance initiatives at the Virginia Health Care Foundation, who has also received around $1.5 million on Tuesday. .
The impending denouement at the end of the public health emergency also hangs over everything, adds Roller. “We will work closely with our colleagues at the Virginia Department of Medical Assistance Services to be their boots on the ground that can inform how the policies and procedures they put in place are truly lived out in people’s experiences,” says- she. .
At the federal level, “we’re focused on how we deal with the unfolding of the public health emergency when it happens,” Brooks Lasure said. “It’s such a priority of the [Biden] administration to continue to enroll people in coverage and connect them to care – and there is no one more in need of care in our country than the nation’s children.