The Secretary issued this call to action as she opened the National Children's Health Insurance Summit in Chicago, kicking off the nation's largest campaign to find and enroll uninsured children in over a decade.
Much progress has been made in recent years, but the enactment of the Children's Health Insurance Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) creates new opportunities to move forward. At the same time, given the economic downturn, the need among families for affordable coverage for their children could not be greater. Not since the creation of CHIP in 1997 has the federal government, in conjunction with states, concentrated so many resources on the effort to find and enroll children who are needlessly going without health insurance coverage.
"As a society and as parents, we have no greater responsibility than to provide quality health care for our children," Secretary Sebelius said. "Our charge here today is to get all eligible children covered to ensure they are healthy throughout their childhood. A healthy child is the block upon which all other successes are built, not just for the child, but for the nation they will lead in the future."
In February, President Obama signed CHIPRA into law. The legislation fully funds CHIP over the next four years and devotes an unprecedented amount of federal funding to support outreach and enrollment efforts for both CHIP and Medicaid. Currently, Medicaid serves more than 32 million low-income American children while CHIP has over 7 million beneficiaries.
Today's speech launched the three-day conference in Chicago sponsored by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that has brought together state Medicaid and CHIP officials, local government, community-based organizations, safety net providers and others who are working to promote enrollment in children's health programs. These experts will exchange proven strategies for finding and enrolling children in health programs as well as removing program barriers that sometimes prevent children from staying in these programs despite continued eligibility.
Participants in the conference will also hear from experts on a wide range of specialized topics, such as reaching diverse or isolated populations, the usefulness of online applications and how to best work with managed care plans and other health care providers.
Also attending today's conference are grantees from 69 organizations across the country that were awarded $40 million by HHS to fund outreach projects in their local communities. Over the next four years, HHS will award a total of $90 million in outreach grants.
"With the nation's unemployment rate at a staggering 9.8 percent and families losing their job-related health care, finding and enrolling eligible children could never be more important," said Cindy Mann, director of the Center for Medicaid and State Operations within CMS. "Bringing together government officials, tribal leaders, community organizations and policy experts, we hope, will build on the successes achieved in recent years and lead to fresh, innovative and successful strategies to deliver quality health care to every eligible child in America."
For more information about free or low-cost children's health insurance, visit the newly updated and redesigned Web site www.insurekidsnow.gov or call toll-free 1-877-KIDS-NOW (1-877-543-7669). The site gives parents and caregivers information on connecting their children to health coverage through Medicaid or CHIP and also provides program information and federal guidance for states and health policy professionals. It will be available in both English and Spanish. National Children's Health Insurance Summit presentations and other conference materials can be downloaded at www.childrenshealthinsurancesummit.com
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