Sidebar                                                Pages 32-33


Linking Students to Health

Care Coverage    



In a partnership with the nationally respected Children’s Defense Fund, AASA is encouraging schools to enroll eligible students in Medicaid or the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program.

Through a grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the joint venture is built around a simple question: “Does your child have health insurance?” Parents who cannot respond in the affirmative receive information on Medicaid and CHIP and help in completing the application. We are promoting access to health insurance through school registration materials and want to ensure the outreach and enrollment become a routine operation in all school districts.

“In any health coverage for children, it’s important to simplify the bureaucracy and build on best practices to make it easier for the eligible to receive benefits,” says Marian Wright Edelman, CDF president.

Medicaid and CHIP provide low-cost or free health coverage for uninsured children and comprehensive benefits including doctor visits; vision; dental and mental health services; prescriptions; immunizations;   X-rays; hospitalization; specialty care; basic prenatal care; and more. In addition, young adults under the age of 26 will qualify for their parents’ health insurance plan if they are not receiving health insurance from an employer.

Willing Participation
AASA and CDF are testing this strategy in eight urban, rural and suburban school systems with diverse student populations: El Monte Union High School District and the Mountain View School District in California; Clarke County School District and Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia; Jefferson Parish Public Schools and Orleans Parish School Board in Louisiana; and Clarksdale Municipal School District and Cleveland School District in the Mississippi Delta.

The superintendents of these school districts willingly agreed to work with AASA and the Children’s Defense Fund because it made sense. They knew it would help them accomplish their main goal — the academic achievement and regular attendance of students without health insurance.

Phil Lanoue, superintendent in Clarke County, Ga., has made this registration process part of the first goal in the school district’s strategic plan.

“Participating in this AASA/CDF initiative is one of the best decisions I ever made as a superintendent,” Lanoue says.

The leadership and engagement of the superintendent are critical for any school-related policy, program or practice to be effective. Clearly, districtwide adoption of effective practices that will identify eligible children who are not enrolled in Medicaid or CHIP requires major coordination.

A Role for Schools
When about two-thirds of uninsured children are eligible but unenrolled in Medicaid or CHIP, it’s a strong signal that more should be done to help connect students and families with affordable coverage.

Nearly 90 percent of nonparticipating eligible children live in families with at least one working parent who either cannot afford health insurance or does not receive it as a benefit of employment.

There may be no better way to reach uninsured children than in schools, through those individuals who come into contact with children and families every day. Medicaid and CHIP outreach and enrollment assistance is especially important during the recession. Newly eligible families may be unfamiliar with public programs. As employees of a trusted institution, educators can talk credibly with families and may know which families need medical services. Schools are the single best place to link eligible low-income children with health coverage.

The Affordable Care Act represents the most significant government expansion and regulatory overhaul of the U.S. health care system since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid in 1965. Full implementation of the act is needed for schools to continue gains in promoting health coverage for eligible students.

“Although the challenges public education faces — fiscally, economically, politically and socially — are complex, there are discrete solutions that we can leverage right now to transform learning — one of them being making sure that eligible students have health insurance,” Dan Domenech, AASA executive director, says.

For more information about this initiative, visit www.aasa.org/childrensinsurance.aspx.

Sharon Adams-Taylor is associate executive director of children’s initiatives and program development at AASA. E-mail: sadams@aasa.org 


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