Getting To the Finish Line: Investments in State-Based Advocacy Show Real Returns in Covering Uninsured Children – Say Ahhh! A Children’s Health Policy Blog

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By Liane Wong and Eugene Lewit, The David and Lucile
Packard Foundation

Even though last week seemed like it was all about the
run-up to the Super Bowl, many of us in the nation had another cause to
celebrate. February 4, 2011 was the second anniversary of the reauthorization
of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a historic federal-state
partnership launched in 1997 to provide health coverage for uninsured children,
and close the gap for families with modest incomes which are above Medicaid
eligibility levels. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen
Sebelius shared last Friday that in the last year–as families faced the most
severe economic downturn in decades and continuing declines in employer
sponsored coverage–more than two million children were newly enrolled in CHIP
and Medicaid. As a result, the percent of kids who are uninsured is at a historic low
of 8.2%, according to the 2010 National Health Interview Survey.   

This is, unequivocally, great news. The growth in health
insurance coverage through Medicaid and CHIP comes with many benefits. Not only
will it allow children to get the preventive care they need to stay healthy and
to see a doctor when sick or injured, access to insurance and quality health
care also has positive effects on a child’s performance in school and a
family’s economic security. And it’s especially heartening to mark this
progress during a time when families all over the country are still struggling
economically.  The problem of
children not having health insurance is one that together, we can solve.  And we at the David and Lucile Packard
Foundation applaud the progress made in recent years and want to continue
maximizing the potential for further gains.

Last week, the Foundation announced $1.2 million in grants
to ten state-based advocacy organizations through the Insuring America’s
Children: Getting to the Finish Line initiative
(IAC). Since 2007 when the
Foundation launched IAC, over 1.3 million children have secured insurance
through Medicaid and CHIP in states where IAC grantees are active. The
significant gains made in children’s coverage have been a result of the policy,
communications, research, and collaborative efforts of key state advocacy
organizations in partnership with state officials and leaders. The results:
policy and program improvements that have delivered the health care children
and families need. 

For 2011, the Foundation’s IAC: Getting to the Finish
Line grants continue the tradition of investing in the work of experienced and
effective advocates including:

1. Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families;

2. Children Now and The Children’s Partnership

3. Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved, the
Colorado Children’s Campaign, Covering Kids and Families, and Metro
Organizations for People

4. New Mexico Voices for Children;

5. Voices for Ohio’s Children;

6. Children First for Oregon;

7. Children’s Defense Fund-Texas, Texans Care for
, Center for Public Policy Priorities;

8. Voices for Utah Children;

9. Children’s Alliance (Washington); and

10.Wisconsin Council for Children and Families

The Georgetown Center for Children and Families (CCF) and
Spitfire Strategies will continue to provide policy and communications counsel
to the IAC state-based organizations.  

Since 2009, improvements to federal law have given state
leaders new tools and resources to cover uninsured children. For instance, the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has distributed more than $280
million in “performance bonuses” to support state efforts to cover more
uninsured kids. In states like Oregon, New Mexico, and Wisconsin, system
improvements and/or technology are helping to ensure that eligible children
don’t lose coverage. Experience from the first three years of IAC shows that
these and other strategies make it easier for parents to enroll their kids and
keep them covered, and they save money for states by avoiding duplicative
paperwork. In coming years, there will be more work to do as state leaders face
decisions about health insurance exchanges, Medicaid and CHIP that can make
health care a reality for millions more children who are uninsured today.

The Packard Foundation looks forward to another year of
partnership with federal and state leaders, our funding partners and a strong
community of advocacy organizations as we move together ever closer to the
finish line.

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