As children are busy heading back to school this fall, the federal government has been working hard to ensure that all children receive health insurance.

Despite the fact that three million additional children were eligible for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in 2009 due to the economic recession, a recent report released by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Urban Institute shows that there was still an increase in how many children received coverage. The number of children eligible for Medicaid and CHIP but not receiving it dropped from 4.7 million in 2008 to 4.3 million in 2009. Census data from 2009 shows that overall, 90% of children received health care coverage, and data just released for 2010 shows that there was not statistically significant change for this rate.

Yet despite these encouraging national statistics, there are still many states with much lower rates of coverage. States such as Nevada, Texas, California, and Florida all have significantly lower rates of children covered than the national average. In response, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently awarded $40 million in grants under the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act in March 2009 (CHIPRA), which had previously provided $40 million in grants to increase and streamline enrollment. This latest round of grants provides for additional outreach and enrollment to 39 state agencies, community health centers, school-based organizations and non-profit groups in 23 states.

These new grants are focused on helping kids retain insurance coverage, as well as to reach out to teenagers and minority children who often experience gaps in coverage. HHS, through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), instructs that states should utilize technology to reach out to these uninsured children and make the enrollment process easier. In addition, state advocates should engage schools in order to indentify and reach out to uninsured children.

Some states already have done just this. Oregon, due to the hard work of advocates through the Oregon Healthy Kids Program, was able to cut the rate of uninsured kids in half by implementing a statewide marketing campaign and partnering with local school districts and youth sports teams to enroll children. CMS provides other examples of success stories at their Insure Kids Now website, which includes a video library of local programs that are working as well as a summary of the grants and the recipients.

Schools already provide several functions for our children- an education, a place to meet friends and find mentors that will help them determine their future. This year they may provide a place where children can enroll in health insurance and look forward to a healthier future.