Back-to-school time is a hectic time for families. As parents get their students ready for another successful school year, now is the time to spread the word in your communities about Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and the availability of free or low-cost health coverage for children who are uninsured.

In a sign of the times, millions of working families are struggling with the effects of the ongoing recession and for the first time, they are having a hard time finding their affordable health coverage for their children. They are unaware that the vast majority of uninsured children actually qualify for Medicaid and CHIP. Community organizations and school districts can play an important role in making sure that parents know about Medicaid and CHIP and how these public programs can help kids get the health care they need to have a healthy and successful school year.

This is what parents need to know:

Medicaid provides effective, high-quality health coverage to low-income uninsured children, especially for those with the greatest medical needs. One way that Medicaid is designed to keep children healthy is through its Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment (EPSDT) requirement, which mandates the services necessary to meet children’s unique health and developmental needs. EPSDT guarantees coverage for developmental assessments for infants and young children, as well as well-child visits and vision, dental, and hearing services.

CHIP is an affordable coverage option for millions of working families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to purchase coverage on their own. CHIP is highly rated by parents because it allows children to receive high quality, pediatric-focused care and has dramatically improved access to care for children living in working families.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is already working for millions of kids by preserving and extending CHIP through September 2019 with full funding through 2015. It also is keeping Medicaid and CHIP coverage strong for children who are currently enrolled by prohibiting states to restrict eligibility requirements for children through 2019.

The ACA also included a long list of consumer protections which ensure that children with long-term or serious illnesses are able to get the care they need. It also included a “no wrong door” approach to enrollment, providing parents a hassle-free way to get kids into the insurance plan that makes the most sense depending on their eligibility criteria.

Despite the enormous success of Medicaid and CHIP, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, over 10% of children who are eligible for coverage under these programs are still not enrolled, mostly because parents are not aware these programs exist or that their children might be eligible to participate.

Having health insurance is essential for a child to grow up healthy and strong. Children with health insurance are more likely than their uninsured counterparts to have a usual source of health care, to have seen a doctor in the previous year, and to have their health care needs met.

Health insurance is also a crucial part of a child’s success at school. It has been shown that children who have health insurance do better in school because they miss fewer days. Along with notebooks and pencils, enrolling your child in health care coverage should be at the top of every parent’s back-to-school checklist.

For more information, please contact Lisa Shapiro at 202-657-0675 or