By Suzanne Schlattman, Maryland Citizens’ Health
Initiative Education Fund, Inc.
This week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services (HHS) announced the Get Covered. Get in the Game initiative which will be launched in seven pilot states across the country including: Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New
York, Oregon, Ohio and Wisconsin. The initiative brings
together coaches, schools, and communities to educate families with children
who are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP about the immediate availability of free
and low-cost health care programs for children.
What a great idea! In public health, we stress prevention
and leading an active lifestyle is one health behavior that pays the greatest
dividends for preventing poor health. However, uninsured kids often miss out on
organized youth sporting activities because they cannot afford the necessary
physical or because their families are afraid that they won’t be able to pay
the medical bills if their child gets hurt. Providing coaches with information
about affordable health insurance options for children is a great way to
promote coverage among eligible families and promote the adoption of healthy
In Maryland, we played around with this theme when we
launched our “Got healthcare?” campaign after the state expanded
Medicaid eligibility for adults in 2007. Local sports heroes from the Baltimore
Ravens and Washington Redskins volunteered to help promote the program. We ran
radio ads, partnered with local hotlines and put up posters in every hospital
to alert people. Having sports
celebs promote enrollment in Medicaid helped raise awareness about the program,
break down the stereotype that Medicaid was only for pregnant women and children,
and again repeated the theme of leading an active lifestyle. Over 200,000 Marylanders have gained
access to free and low cost health care services since this campaign began.
Check out one of the great radio ads that was part of this
It makes a lot of sense to involve youth sports leaders with our
enrollment efforts as an estimated 44 million children participate in organized
youth sports. Coaches for youth
sporting leagues are local celebs in their communities too — and to have these
folks promote enrollment in children’s health insurance programs across the
country is great news.
In announcing the initiative, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius
reminded us of why we all work so hard to connect children with coverage:
“Healthy kids do better in school and in life because
they are able to participate fully in activities that develop their bodies and
their minds,” Secretary Sebelius said. “Kids should not have to miss out on
their favorite sports and other activities that get them moving because they
lack health insurance coverage.”
All states can use the materials developed for the pilot
states to get coaches involved in outreach efforts to enroll eligible
children. More information about
the Get Covered: Get in the Game initiative is available at www.InsureKidsNow.gov.
The views expressed by guest bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Children and Families.