Tips for Promoting Health Insurance Coverage Through Children's Public Benefits Programs

Aug 26, 2013

By Emily Firgens

Health insurance coverage is critical to ensuring all children and families have access to health care, which is indisputably tied to healthy child development and better outcomes. As millions of Americans prepare to access health insurance in 2014 through the Affordable Care Act, states and communities are gearing up to connect families to coverage, including through some states' Medicaid expansion and health insurance exchanges. Understanding and navigating one's way to coverage can be a confusing and complicated process for families. Programs like Head Start and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are logical places to help connect and inform families about their health insurance options.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services' (CMS) "Ten Ways to Promote New Insurance Opportunities" series of fact sheets offers information tailored to Head Start, SNAP, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) programs, along with schools, on how they can help with outreach and enrollment efforts. Each fact sheet offers guidance on how to spread the word about health insurance enrollment, use other benefit programs to simplify health insurance enrollment and renewal, help families apply for health insurance, and share promising practices with other program affiliates.

For example, state Head Start collaboration directors and associations can work to keep local programs informed about health insurance options, and in particular, communicate with the state Medicaid agency and Health Insurance Exchange to ensure programs and families have current, up-to-date information on health coverage. CMS suggests that WIC programs work with the state Medicaid agency to help simplify the insurance enrollment process by using WIC eligibility data to streamline enrollment into Medicaid or the  Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). All programs and schools can offer information onsite about health insurance enrollment as well as provide onsite application assistance.

Many of these ideas are not exclusive to these programs - child care assistance, home visiting, and the school lunch programs are examples of other avenues to promote health insurance outreach and enrollment.  Helping families and children understand and take advantage of health insurance options will be critical as states begin enrolling individuals and families in the new health insurance options starting October 1, 2013. Connecting the families who are already reached through programs like WIC and child care assistance to health insurance is a crucial place to start. 

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