Even though last week seemed like it was all about the run-up to the Super Bowl, many of us in the nation had another cause to celebrate. February 4, 2011 was the second anniversary of the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a historic federal-state partnership launched in 1997 to provide health coverage for uninsured children, and close the gap for families with modest incomes which are above Medicaid eligibility levels. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius shared last Friday that in the last year–as families faced the most severe economic downturn in decades and continuing declines in employer sponsored coverage–more than two million children were newly enrolled in CHIP and Medicaid. As a result, the percent of kids who are uninsured is at a historic low of 8.2%, according to the 2010 National Health Interview Survey.

This is, unequivocally, great news. The growth in health insurance coverage through Medicaid and CHIP comes with many benefits. Not only will it allow children to get the preventive care they need to stay healthy and to see a doctor when sick or injured, access to insurance and quality health care also has positive effects on a child’s performance in school and a family’s economic security. And it’s especially heartening to mark this progress during a time when families all over the country are still struggling economically. The problem of children not having health insurance is one that together, we can solve. And we at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation applaud the progress made in recent years and want to continue maximizing the potential for further gains.

Last week, the Foundation announced $1.2 million in grants to ten state-based advocacy organizations through the Insuring America’s Children: Getting to the Finish Line initiative (IAC). Since 2007 when the Foundation launched IAC, over 1.3 million children have secured insurance through Medicaid and CHIP in states where IAC grantees are active. The significant gains made in children’s coverage have been a result of the policy, communications, research, and collaborative efforts of key state advocacy organizations in partnership with state officials and leaders. The results: policy and program improvements that have delivered the health care children and families need.

For 2011, the Foundation’s IAC: Getting to the Finish Line grants continue the tradition of investing in the work of experienced and effective advocates including:

1. Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families;
2. Children Now and The Children’s Partnership (California);
3. Colorado Coalition for the Medically Underserved, the Colorado Children’s Campaign, Covering Kids and Families, and Metro Organizations for People (Colorado);
4. New Mexico Voices for Children;
5. Voices for Ohio’s Children;
6. Children First for Oregon;
7. Children’s Defense Fund-Texas, Texans Care for Children, Center for Public Policy Priorities;
8. Voices for Utah Children;
9. Children’s Alliance (Washington); and
10. Wisconsin Council for Children and Families

The Georgetown Center for Children and Families (CCF) and Spitfire Strategies will continue to provide policy and communications counsel to the IAC state-based organizations.

Since 2009, improvements to federal law have given state leaders new tools and resources to cover uninsured children. For instance, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has distributed more than $280 million in “performance bonuses” to support state efforts to cover more uninsured kids. In states like Oregon, New Mexico, and Wisconsin, system improvements and/or technology are helping to ensure that eligible children don’t lose coverage. Experience from the first three years of IAC shows that these and other strategies make it easier for parents to enroll their kids and keep them covered, and they save money for states by avoiding duplicative paperwork. In coming years, there will be more work to do as state leaders face decisions about health insurance exchanges, Medicaid and CHIP that can make health care a reality for millions more children who are uninsured today.

The Packard Foundation looks forward to another year of partnership with federal and state leaders, our funding partners and a strong community of advocacy organizations as we move together ever closer to the finish line.

Originally posted on Georgetown University Center for Children and Families Say Ahhh! Blog