Making sure more kids have health coverage

June 14, 2016

CommuniCare Health Centers, a non-profit healthcare organization, recently opened up its newest clinic in Boerne. 

University Health System has been awarded almost $1 million by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to enroll more uninsured Bexar County children already eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, into those programs.

University Health System was one of five organizations in Texas and 38 nationwide to receive part of a $32 million grant awarded as part of the Connecting Kids to Coverage campaign, which is designed to increase the number of children with health coverage.

About 10 percent of Bexar County children are uninsured — down from almost 14 percent in 2009. Still, in some San Antonio census tracts the rates are as high as 40 percent, according to Census Bureau estimates.

“Although the uninsured rate for children has fallen in recent years, there are still a number of barriers to obtaining coverage,” said Dr. Roberto Villarreal, senior vice president of research and information management at University Health System. “Most families are aware of Medicaid and CHIP. However, fewer are knowledgeable about whether their children are eligible for assistance. Additionally, about 25 percent of parents lack the knowledge about how to enroll their children in Medicaid or CHIP.”

The two-year, $958,230 grant to University Health System will be used to educate thousands of local families on how to enroll, as well as why it’s important to continually re-enroll before coverage lapses. The program will also work to enroll eligible adult family members into the Marketplace using culturally sensitive and targeted approaches.

The Affordable Care Act has helped increase the numbers of children who have access to quality, affordable coverage. According to the National Health Interview Survey, only 4.5 percent of the nation’s children remained uninsured in 2015. In addition, a recent analysis of the American Community Survey found that 91 percent of eligible children are now enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, an increase of nearly 10 percentage points since 2008, according to the Urban Institute.

CMS announced Monday that an additional 1 million children were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP in 2015 as compared with 2014.

In announcing the grants, CMS noted that “having coverage improves children’s health, increases their ability to succeed in school, and results in other positive outcomes. Recent research shows that these gains are long lasting, with children who gained coverage experiencing better health, higher educational attainment and higher earnings as adults.”