Today is an important day for kids and their families all across the country. On this day, we celebrate the second anniversary of the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act, which President Obama signed into law, making it possible for this program to continue providing health coverage for uninsured children in families with limited incomes.
All children should have access to the preventive services and routine check-ups necessary to stay healthy, and no parent should ever have to worry about how he or she will pay the bills if their child gets sick or injured. With health insurance, children are protected, and parents get the peace of mind that comes with knowing they can afford a doctor's visit and required medication.
Which is why I am very proud to say that in the last year, more than two million children have been newly enrolled in Children's Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, bringing the total number of children who have received health coverage through these programs to more than 42 million.
This is a tremendous accomplishment, but there is still more work to do. An Urban Institute study found that roughly five million children -- about two-thirds of the uninsured children in our country -- are eligible for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program, but have yet to be enrolled. Though participation rates vary widely, 10 states have achieved a participation rate of about 90 percent or higher. That tells us that we can be successful.
Last year, I announced the Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge, a public-private initiative to enroll all eligible uninsured children in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program. So far, hundreds of organizations and individuals have registered their support for the challenge. And diverse groups from local United Way agencies and community health centers, to the Philadelphia Eagles Youth Partnership and the City of Tampa, have formally stepped up to share the strategies they are using to connect kids to coverage.
In Massachusetts, for example, a group called Health Care for All sponsored a phone-a-thon that signed up 300 children in one day -- about the number they usually enroll over three months! The Michigan Primary Care Association is using new technology, including Google Maps and Google Voice, to give families prompt, on-the-spot help to enroll their children in coverage. In states like Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Wisconsin, technology is also helping to ensure that eligible children do not experience unnecessary gaps in coverage. States have shown that these and other strategies streamline enrollment for families and save money for states.
These economic times are tough for everyone; both states and families are tightening their belts. The fact that states have continued to reach out and enroll eligible children shows that healthy children and secure families continue to be our collective priority. The fact that the uninsured rate for children has declined even though families have lost private coverage in the downturn shows that Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program are doing the job they were designed to do -- providing health coverage when children need it most.
To continue supporting these innovative efforts, the Department of Health and Human Services has announced the availability of an additional $40 million in grants to states, community-based organizations, health centers, school systems, tribes and other organizations to promote enrollment and retention in Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program coverage. These grants will help support the use of technology and encourage outreach with the goal of enrolling children who are often hard to reach.
As we take time to recognize our progress to date, this is also a day to remember the distance we have yet to go in providing quality health coverage for all families. By focusing on our obligation to cover children and by sharing our best strategies and resources, we can meet this challenge.
If you are interested in learning more about Children's Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, please call our toll-free and confidential hotline 1-877 KIDS NOW (1-877-543-7669) or visit our website: www.insurekidsnow.gov
This blog is part of the Peaceful Revolution series that explores innovative ideas to strengthen America's families through public policies, business practices, and cultural change. Done in collaboration with MomsRising.org, read a new post here each week.
Follow Kathleen Sebelius on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Sebelius