This Year, Cities Have Got You Covered

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This blog post was co-written by Carla Plaza, consultant to NLC’s Cities Expanding Health Access for Children and Families initiative.

Children Receive Emergency Care At Pediatric HospitalEight cities are taking bold new steps to increase Medicaid and CHIP enrollment this year. (Getty Images)

Yes, it’s that time of year again. I’m not talking about the NFL playoffs or flu season, though. It’s the Affordable Care Act’s open enrollment period (November 15, 2014 to February 15, 2015). Enrollment in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), however, is available year round for eligible families and children.

The eight cities participating in NLC’s Cities Expanding Health Access for Children and Families (CEHACF) initiative are leveraging the renewed focus on health insurance to get more families and children in their communities enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP.

One of the lessons learned from the CEHACF cities so far is that strong messages are effective when they come from trusted community voices. Mayor Randy Walker of Garden City, Mich., and Mayor Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh have used the bully pulpit to encourage their residents to get health coverage, and are featured prominently in PSAs about Medicaid and CHIP.

Healthy Together is committed to enrolling all Pittsburgh children and youth in quality, no- to low-cost healthcare programs, like Medicaid and CHIP.

One of the main Cover Jacksonville campaign strategies has been to develop a streamlined, single point of access referral system for community residents. Working in partnership with the United Way of Northeast Florida, the campaign team trained 211 call staff to incorporate questions about health insurance enrollment into their conversations with callers. 211 operators can now make appointments for callers with an enrollment assistor at a convenient location.

Dallas is finalizing the process of becoming a Community Partner with the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. As a Community Partner, staff at city agencies that work in community centers as well as child care and homelessness services can become trained enrollment assistors. Clients visiting any of these city agencies will then be screened for and enrolled in all of the benefits for which they are eligible through the YourTexasBenefits program – including Medicaid and CHIP.

The New Bedford, Mass. campaign team is working closely with school nurses to educate students and their families about the importance of health care coverage and access. This partnership is also generating awareness about their school-based campaign and enrollment events.

Together with local health care providers, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell and Dr. Brenda Weis, Director of the New Bedford Health Department, participate in promotional video for the city of New Bedford’s new health initiative.

Recognizing the importance of the tourism industry in their city, Savannah, Ga.’s campaign team is targeting the hotel and hospitality industry to get their employees and employees’ families enrolled. The team is working with local businesses to ensure that families and children get the coverage they need.

Finally, Providence, R.I. is targeting older youth and recruiting them to become health ambassadors who would spread the word about the importance of coverage to their families and friends. In Hattiesburg, Miss., campaign staff are working with their faith-based community to help spread the message of the importance of health coverage. The team trained some church members to be enrollment assistors, which allowed for onsite enrollment assistance following church services.

What is your city doing to help enroll children and families in Medicaid and CHIP? Share your story with us!

Dawn Schluckebeir_headshot

About the Author: Dawn Schluckebier is a Senior Associate for Family Economic Success in NLC’s Institute for Youth, Education, and Families. Follow Dawn on Twitter at @TheSchluck. Email Dawn at to share your city’s story or get more information on the CEHACF cities’ campaigns.