I had a chance to go to a fantastic event this morning
sponsored by Secretary Sebelius on the Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge,
which aims to reach the nation’s 4.7 million uninsured children who already are
eligible for Medicaid or CHIP. She
made a compelling pitch that nothing is more important to our future than the
health of America’s children and that is why Medicaid and CHIP were created. Thanks to these programs, tens of
millions of Americans have the peace of mind that comes from knowing that their
child is safe.
In recognition that millions of our children are heading
back to school this week, the event also featured Education Secretary Arne
Duncan who tackled the issue from an education perspective. He argued that some foundational things
have to be in place for students to be able to excel. If they can’t see the blackboard, or if they are coping with
untreated asthma, it is pretty tough to expect them to do well. He pledged to work with some of the
major school districts in the states that have the furthest to go in covering
uninsured children. (California,
Florida, and Texas account for 40% of all uninsured kids, according to powerful
new data released today by the Urban Institute. See my colleague Martha Heberlein’s blog for more on the report).
The star of the morning, though, was probably Bonnie, a
mom from Maryland. “I speak to you
as a mother and as an American,” she began before going on to explain that her
husband is an auto-mechanic who doesn’t have any affordable employer-based
coverage. So, when she lost
her job, she found her family uninsured.
Luckily, she hooked up with a community-based organization that helped
her file an application for child health coverage. It took only 15 minutes from start to finish, and within 24
hours she got a call that her son qualified. Since her son has asthma, it was an enormous source of peace
of mind in a time of need. As she
concluded, “No mother, no parents should have to choose their mortgage and utilities over health care” for their child.
I left encouraged about the level of commitment shown by
two key leaders in the Obama Administration, as well as impressed by the broad
array of national organizations they’ve already signed up to work on the
Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge.