A Message from Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier BecerraToday our nation’s children are living through challenging times: social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the seemingly endless epidemic of mass shootings, and the economic toll that this pandemic has taken on families. And all of this is taking a toll on impacting our children’s mental health.
Our children deserve to be children, but when the conflicts of the world force themselves into their lives, that’s when we need to step in and make sure that they are protected. Fortunately, most children have access to health coverage; unfortunately, millions of children remain uninsured. What’s more, kids in minority communities have disproportionately high rates of uninsurance. These facts make CMS’ Connecting Kids to Coverage National Campaign all the more important.
The Connecting Kids to Coverage National Campaign’s mission is to promote the enrollment of eligible children in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), thereby affording their families the peace of mind of knowing they have health coverage. Not only do these programs cover preventive care, but they cover much needed mental health services.
On this Mental Health Awareness Month, I want to reiterate HHS’s commitment to extending health insurance to all our nation’s children and to giving parents the tools they need to help ensure their children develop into healthy adults. As Frederick Douglass said more than one hundred years ago, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” That remains as true today as it did back then.
I want to thank CMS and all the Campaign’s partner organizations for working to amplify the message of this campaign, and I want to encourage parents whose kids are uninsured to enroll in Medicaid and CHIP. Together, we can help this nation’s children grow into healthy adults.
Connecting Kids to Health Coverage
Across the U.S., more than 94% of children have health insurance, however, millions remain uninsured. Among those uninsured, those in minority communities face high rates of uninsurance. In fact, American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) children continue to have the highest uninsured rates by race and ethnicity; followed by Hispanic children. African Americans have the lowest rate of uninsured children apart from Asian, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander children.
There are a variety of reasons that minority populations face barriers to enrolling in health insurance, a few of which include language, lower literacy rates, and limited access to enrollment assistance. It is crucial that children are covered by health insurance to stay up to date on preventive care, promote physical and social development, and succeed academically. Data show that children with health insurance are less likely to miss class and more likely to perform better in school compared to those who do not have health insurance.
Particularly in households that are low-to-mid-income, Medicaid and CHIP are a great option for kids’ health insurance. Not only does Medicaid and CHIP cover preventive care, it also covers routine check-ups, vaccinations, prescriptions, dental care, vision care, and mental health services.
Coverage of mental health services is particularly important right now with the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency. Prior to COVID-19, as many as one in six U.S. children between the ages of 6 and 17 had a treatable mental health disorder. Since the start of the pandemic, children across the country have been facing additional stressors such as a disruption of familiar routines, schooling and socialization, as well as economic and other impacts on families, leading to a surge of anxiety and depression in young people. In addition, mental health disparities exist across race, gender, and geographic location. Due to COVID-19, many routine well-child visits may have been postponed, keeping children from getting important preventive services. Between March through July 2020, compared to data from the same period in 2019, CMS found in a data snapshot that children insured by Medicaid and CHIP participated in fewer routine care visits, which includes 8.4 million (35%) fewer outpatient mental health services, even after accounting for the increased use of telehealth.
Coverage with Medicaid and CHIP includes developmental and behavioral health screenings and services delivered via telehealth. Early intervention and access to essential mental health services can help children get the support they need to meet important developmental milestones. While promoting access to mental and behavioral services is a year-round mission for us (and many of you)—May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which is an opportune moment for organizations to focus on this critical benefit in our efforts to enroll eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP, and encourage our current beneficiaries to access these services.
Medicaid and CHIP offer free or low-cost health insurance for kids and teens up to age 19. The Connecting Kids to Coverage National Campaign resources below can help organizations promote health insurance coverage through Medicaid and CHIP and connect children of all backgrounds to health care.
- Mental health resources
Visit the “Mental Health Initiatives” page to find all of the Campaign’s mental health resources in one place, including a :15 second digital video. These resources can be used to encourage parents and caregivers to enroll in Medicaid and CHIP to access important mental health benefits once their children and teens are covered.
- Print materials in multiple languages
Organizations can use these inclusive, multi-language print materials to assist in outreach. These materials can be placed throughout the community to increase awareness about Medicaid and CHIP. Available languages include French, Marshallese, Spanish, Arabic, Burmese, Chinese, Farsi, Haitian Creole, Hmong, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. These materials can also be customized to include your organization’s name, logo, and other state-specific information. See our customization guide on how to submit your request.
- Multicultural, AI/AN resources
There are many resources to help reach children and families, including multicultural outreach resources, the Outreach and Enrollment fundamentals guide for AI/AN children, and tips for conducting outreach in rural communities.
Upcoming Observances in May
- Mental Health Awareness Month (May)
- National Asthma and Allergy Awareness Month (May)
- Safety & Health Week (May 2 – 8)
- Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day (May 7)
- Mother’s Day (May 9)
Stay Connected with the Campaign
- Share our Campaign materials. Our ever-growing, multi-lingual Outreach Tool Library features a variety of targeted resources to use in your outreach and enrollment efforts, available in multiple formats.
- Contact us. To get more involved with the Campaign, contact us via email at ConnectingKids@cms.hhs.gov.
- Follow the Campaign on Twitter. Remember to re-tweet or share our messages from @IKNGov with your social media network and be sure to use our #Enroll365 and #KidsEnroll hashtags in your posts.