Health care coverage helps children show up for school ready to learn and provides parents with the peace of mind of knowing they can afford to get their children the care they need to succeed. Sadly, many of America’s children are going without affordable coverage even though they are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but not enrolled. The good news is that the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services have teamed up to do something about it.
Earlier this month, the two federal agencies launched Healthy Students, Promising Futures to encourage states and school districts to help eligible students and families enroll in affordable health coverage. The initiative also encourages the creation of more school-based health centers and local partnerships with community hospitals to help children achieve better health and academic success. The Secretary of Education John King and Secretary of HHS Sylvia Burwell issued a joint letter to Chief State School Officers and State Health Officials and released a toolkit to help states, school districts and schools to implement the recommendations.
As school-aged children are more likely to be uninsured than younger children, it makes a lot of sense to try to reach uninsured kids through schools. Schools experience first-hand the needs of students who are unable to come to school ready to learn because their families can’t afford to get them the health care they need. While teachers and school personnel are already doing so much it seems unfair to put another task on their “to do” list, however, helping kids get health care is so inter-connected with their ability to learn that it can’t be ignored. Research shows that children who have health coverage miss fewer days of school, are more likely to graduate from high school and attend college. It’s well worth whatever extra time and effort school staff spend helping uninsured children overcome barriers to coverage. Many schools are already doing an admirable job of reaching uninsured students. Those schools that would like to do more don’t have to do it alone as many community organizations are willing to help.
Children’s advocates interested in learning more about this initiative should check out the National Collaborative on Education and Health, which is co-convened by the Healthy Schools Campaign and the Trust for America’s Health TFAH).