Rising to the Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge

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By Cathy Kaufman, Oregon Healthy Kids

It was a proud day for Oregon last month when our Healthy Kids Program was hailed as a national model by U.S. Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.  Secretary Sebelius paid a visit to Cleveland High School in Portland to help launch a new Healthy Kids Sports Campaign, designed to encourage school and community youth coaches to help spread the word about Healthy Kids to families of uninsured children. Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski, Congressman Earl Blumenauer, student athletes and coaches and families with children already enrolled in Healthy Kids also participated in the event. (A video of the event was featured at the Connecting Kids to Coverage back-to-school event in Washington, D.C. earlier this month.)


Because children who play sports need a physical exam and health coverage to play, Oregon is partnering with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to implement a statewide campaign aimed at coaches. This campaign is part of our response to the challenge the Secretary issued at the one-year anniversary of the signing of the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA). Secretary Sebelius challenged states to enroll the five million eligible but uninsured children in Medicaid and CHIP over the next five years, calling on all levels of government, as well as the private sector.

The Governor enthusiastically embraced the challenge, saying “I accept the challenge.  Oregon has already made great strides in reaching out to and enrolling uninsured children into Healthy Kids.”

Governor Kulongoski signed the Healthy Kids program into law one year ago, expanding coverage to an estimated 80,000 more uninsured Oregon children in families up to 300% of the Federal Poverty Level, with the ability for families above that income limit to buy into the program at full cost. In the past year, we’ve enrolled 54,000 children – which puts us two-thirds of the way to our goal.

There are many reasons for our success to date. Healthy Kids created a new office dedicated to rolling out an aggressive outreach and marketing campaign. We have beautiful ads across the state – on billboards, radio, busses and trains, and even in shopping malls. We have a well-funded Application Assistance program, through which certified organizations from local communities will receive $75 for every application they’ve helped a family fill out that results in at least one child enrolling in Healthy Kids. We’ve also distributed $3 million in outreach grants to community-based organizations across the state. We’ve developed a number of targeted campaigns, including a school-based campaign; a campaign for communities of color; a campaign aimed at employers who aren’t able to offer health coverage to employees or their dependents; and a faith-based campaign through which we’re reaching out to a wide variety of faith communities to help spread the word about Healthy Kids to more families.

In addition to our great outreach and marketing efforts, we’re doing everything we can to improve our systems and eliminate red tape. We’re in the middle of streamlining our application, the new version of which will be rolling out – both print and an online version– in October. We’ve also worked to reduce administrative barriers to enrollment, like reducing the required period of uninsurance from six months down to two months; eliminating the asset test for children; and providing all kids with 12-months of continuous eligibility.

We’re helping more children enroll quickly thorugh through “express lane eigibility,” where a family who has qualified for other programs can fill out a fast and basic form to qualify for health coverage, without needing to resubmit income documentation. We’ve already begun using express lane eligibility families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and will start using Free and reduced Lunch applications from select school districts later this year. Lastly, we’ve implemented “ex-parte” renewal and an improved redetermination process, so that once eligible children are enrolled, we can keep them enrolled.

Editor’s Note: The views expressed by Guest Bloggers do not necessarily reflect the views of the Center for Children and Families.