February 4, 2010
Thank you, Ms. Keys. It’s good to be here with my friend Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, and with all of you to talk about how we can make sure that every American kid gets the health care they need.
The Mazique Center is a great place to have that conversation. Kids come hear to learn but they can also find a doctor or see a dentist or get other critical services. You try to meet the full range of their needs. That’s what this administration believes in too, so keep up the good work.
Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children. That’s why the bill reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program was one of the first bills that President Obama signed.
And it’s why less than two weeks later, he followed that up by signing the Recovery Act into law, which provided crucial assistance to states to help strengthen their Medicaid programs so that families could keep getting the care they need.
These programs have been incredibly important for families. They are the key reasons that the parents of 40 million kids all over the country have not had to worry about whether they can afford a visit to the doctor, especially during this recession.
One of the things this administration does is measure results. So this winter, we took a very close look at how all the states, the territories, and the District of Columbia were carrying out the new laws.
And today my department is releasing a report that shows how health coverage for children across the country has really improved since the CHIP reauthorization and the Recovery Act went into effect. In fact, an additional 2.6 million children gained Medicaid or CHIP coverage during the 2009 fiscal year, mostly living in families with the lowest incomes.
That’s pretty good—but we can do better. There are still 5 million children who are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP, but don’t have coverage.
Maybe they haven’t heard of the programs or don’t know they are eligible or have applied before and were turned away. But we need to find them now.
That’s why we’re issuing a challenge. We call it “Connecting Kids to Coverage.” What it says is that we want states, local governments, community-based organizations, health centers, and faith-based organizations to enroll all of the children who are eligible for CHIP or Medicaid, but do not have coverage now.
And we’re doing our part too. Last fall we awarded outreach grants to help find these kids and enroll them, so they don’t have to put their doctor’s appointments off a day longer than they have to.
Working together, we think we can enroll all five million kids in the next five years.
We’ve also updated our insurekidsnow.gov website—a one-stop source in English and Spanish for families and health professionals to learn about health insurance options for their children and patients. There is also a toll free number 877-KIDS-NOW that families can call to be connected to someone in their state who can help them enroll.
No child should go without health care in America. So in the coming weeks, I’ll be traveling and speaking to a wide range of organizations and challenging them help children get the health care they need.
Now I want to introduce my friend Secretary Vilsack. I got to know Secretary Vilsack when we were both governors, and since we’ve been in Washington we’ve worked together on a long list of important issues—from food safety to fighting obesity. Now we’re working together to help sign kids up for health insurance and Tom can give you a few more details about that work.