The Role of Schools in Ensuring Access to Health Coverage

December 18, 2013

Schools can ensure students have access to health insurance.

By Alex Mays, Writer + Policy Analyst

Our work at HSC is grounded in the core belief that healthy students are better learners. We know that healthy students are more likely to attend school, engage and learn. Children’s health insurance coverage is a major determinant of access to quality health care. Uninsured children are more likely to perform poorly in school than children with health coverage; they’re also more likely to be affected by chronic conditions, such as obesity, asthma and vision impairment, that directly impact their ability to learn. Unfortunately, 7.6 million children and youth are uninsured in the U.S.

That is why we were excited to see the recent report from AASA (The School Superintendents Association) and Children’s Defense Fund, Insure Our Children, Ensure Our Future. This report highlights the critical role schools can play in enrolling students in Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and, perhaps most importantly, the report includes a call to action to teachers, principals and superintendents to enroll students in health insurance programs.

AASA and Children’s Defense Fund were able to work with eight school districts to identify uninsured students and enroll eligible children in health insurance programs. Based on their work with these diverse school districts, AASA and Children’s Defense Fund identified a set of strategies and best practices other school districts across the country can use to ensure all eligible children get health coverage.

AASA’s and Children’s Defense Fund’s model for school-based outreach to families was built around a simple question: “Does your child have health insurance?” Parents who reply “No” or “Don’t Know” are flagged and receive information from the school district staff on Medicaid and CHIP, as well as application assistance.

In addition, AASA and Children’s Defense Fund developed a six-point formula for identifying uninsured students and enrolling eligible students in health coverage. The formula includes activities such as establishing a multidisciplinary team, participating in ongoing outreach and communication efforts, and engaging community partners. At Jefferson Parish Public School System, one of the participating school districts, the six-point formula enabled the school to connect over 5,000 uninsured students to Medicaid and CHIP.

While the rest of the participating districts are still working to determine exactly how many students enrolled in coverage as a result of these efforts, the information collected to date indicates that the project was a huge success.

As the Affordable Care Act takes effect and even more children and families become eligible for Medicaid or subsidized coverage, schools’ efforts to enroll eligible, uninsured children will be more important than ever. We encourage you to download AASA’s and Children’s Defense Fund’s report to learn more about what you can do in your community and school to make sure all children have access to health coverage. Thank you to AASA and Children’s Defense Fund for creating such a wonderful resource.