For Children & Families This Spring, April Showers Bring More Than May Flowers

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President Obama recently signed into law the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. This comes as great news to city leaders such as Mayor Jorge Elorza, who is working to expand health coverage for children and families in Providence, R.I.

CHIPFrom left to right: U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Jorge Elorza, mayor of Providence, R.I., Merrill Thomas, CEO, Providence Community Health Centers and Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Director, Rhode Island KIDS COUNT. (City of Providence)

On April 16, President Obama signed into law the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015. This bill extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for two more years. Federal funding for the program was scheduled to run out on Sept. 30, 2015, which would have potentially put the health of millions of children at risk.

Enactment of this bipartisan measure is not only a win for children, it’s a win for cities! When families have health insurance, the burden on local hospital emergency rooms is reduced, financial crisis resulting from medical debt is avoided, children have greater academic achievement, and parents take less time off work to care for sick kids. Connecting families to health insurance is good local governance. In addition, the measure provides an additional $40 million in outreach and enrollment grants. In the past, recipients of such grants included local governments.

The bill’s extension is great news to city leaders such as Jorge Elorza, mayor of Providence, R.I., who is working to expand health coverage for children and families in his city. At a recent event, Mayor Elorza, Senator Jack Reed and their partners came together to kick-off a campaign to reach eligible but currently unenrolled children. Mayor Elorza underscored the importance of the federal program and its role in covering 28,000 children in Providence.

To reach these children and their families, the city and its partners have disseminated 94,262 promotional and educational materials and conducted outreach to over 7,100 students. They have enrolled 808 children to date in RIte Care, a combined Medicaid/CHIP program, as a result of these efforts.

Providence is one of eight cities participating in NLC’s Cities Expanding Health Access for Children and Families Initiative, which supports city efforts to connect children and their families to health insurance coverage. For more information, check out the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families’ blog for a great overview of the CHIP provisions within the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.


Carla PlazaAbout the Author: 
Carla I. Plaza is a consultant to the NLC Institute for Youth, Education, and Families’ health benefits outreach project. Follow Carla on Twitter at @cipinwdc.