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Free and Low Cost Health Insurance
Children You Know Are Missing Out

The Start Healthy, Stay Healthy campaign is a national outreach effort conducted by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a private, nonprofit research and policy organization based in Washington, D.C. Since 1994, the campaign has been enlisting a wide array of community-based organizations, health and human services providers, advocacy groups, program administrators and others to identify children from low-income working families who may be eligible for free or low-cost health insurance programs. The campaign also promotes coordination between newly enacted state child health insurance programs and Medicaid to ensure that children are not in danger of being left without coverage.

Helping Families

Take a moment to read the words of Stefanie Munroe:

My husband Dan and I live in Richmond, Virginia with our three children, Victor, Mark and Dylan. Dan has a good job working as a mechanic, but unfortunately our family doesn't earn enough to afford private health insurance. Three years ago, our son Mark was constantly sick with ear infections. We took him to doctors as often as we could, but we couldn't afford as much as he needed. It was horrible not to be able to give our son the care he needed.

We were so relieved when a Salvation Army worker referred us to a program that helps parents learn whether their kids are eligible for Medicaid and shows them how to enroll. Within a week, Mark had Medicaid. Without this program we would never have known he was eligible.

Medicaid has also helped our 18 month old son Dylan, who had multiple ear infections too. Unlike most children his age, Dylan was not talking at all. Our doctor told us it was because he had lost 20 percent of his hearing from the ear infections. Two weeks ago, thanks to Medicaid, Dylan had surgery to insert tubes in his ears...

The story of Mark and Dylan is not unusual. Millions of children don't get the health care they need because they have no health insurance. Without insurance, common childhood illnesses often go untreated and can impair a child's growth and development; more serious illnesses or disabilities may never get proper treatment at all. Without health insurance, it is next to impossible to get routine preventive care, which can pinpoint a child's health needs before they become serious problems.

More than 11.5 million children in the U.S. have no health insurance, mostly because their families can't afford it. But, for about 4.7 million of these children — more than 40 percent — comprehensive coverage is available for free already through the Medicaid program. And, coverage for many children who aren't eligible for Medicaid may soon be available for free or at low cost through Medicaid expansions or new state child health insurance programs financed by the new federal child health block grant.

Why aren't eligible children signed up for health insurance? For many, it's because their families lack information. A large number of the children who are eligible for coverage but who are not enrolled have working parents who don't know about health insurance programs like Medicaid and new state child health insurance programs, or they believe that because they have a job their children don't qualify. Many don't know how to apply for benefits, or find the application process too complicated or ill-suited to a working family's schedule.

Click for a larger image of the cover of the Campaign Kit.Narrowing the gap between the number of children eligible for Medicaid and other child health insurance programs and the number who benefit from them is critical. Schools, child care programs, human services organizations, the faith community, health care providers, government agencies, businesses and many others all have key roles to play. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities launched the Start Healthy, Stay Healthy Campaign to engage organizations and individuals like you in a nationwide effort to get this important job done. Our goal is to give you the tools to: inform families about free and low-cost health insurance for their children; assist families with application procedures; and follow through to ensure children get enrolled. A revised version of our Start Healthy, Stay Healthy Campaign kit is in the works and the new version will have much of what you need to help you meet the challenge.

The Start Healthy, Stay Healthy Campaign began in 1994 and is growing all the time. We hope you will become part of our network. As we learn about new and creative outreach strategies we will share that information with you.

Why invest time and money in outreach? Stefanie Munroe provides an answer:

Just last week Dylan said his first four words: Mama, Dada, Shoe and Bubble. I don't think we would have heard those words for a long time if we had not been able to get health insurance that covered the care Dylan needed. Our family was very fortunate that we had a program to tell us about Medicaid. But I imagine that there are many families out there who may never know that their children can get covered.

Be Healthy!  Be Healthy!  Be Healthy!