A pilot public service campaign aimed at signing up more children and youths in seven states for federal health insurance is being waged through sports programs and presented as a way to get more student athletes onto the field.
Called Get Covered. Get in the Game., the campaign by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is focusing on the 5 million children in the United States who are eligible for federal health insurance but lack coverage. The recruiters will be mostly sports coaches.
Every year, uninsured children who want to participate in sports are “sidelined” – according to the initiative’s website, InsureKidsNow.gov – fearing they won’t be able to pay for required medical exams and potential injuries. This year, CMS is providing training and materials to coaches of school- and community-based programs so they can inform their youth athletes of eligibility criteria and procedures, in hopes they will relay information to their families and ultimately be signed up for health insurance.
“Many times I think parents, maybe because they are working, think they may not qualify [for health insurance],” said Gloria Sanchez, the Centers’ bilingual public information specialist. However, federal programs like Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) cater to such families.
“We are just approaching different organizations and places where kids are playing sports, and we’re creating a partnership,” she said. “But, anyone can join … I think it’s a perfect partnership between sports and health.”
Coaches will receive hard copies of fact sheets, announcements and messages directed at parents so they can distribute them to their athletes. All of these materials, in addition to instructions for insurance enrollment and a health-provider locator, are also available online. Sanchez said the Department of Health and Human Services is paying all costs for the project and that the states do not have to pay anything. for the program. .
“The idea is for kids to get insured, get exams and participate in sports,” Sanchez added.
The initiative is targeting seven demographically diverse states – Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Ohio, and Wisconsin – due to their high populations that match these criteria. Florida proved to be in the greatest need, with nearly 395,000 eligible but uninsured youth, followed by New York, with 311,000.
So far, efforts have been launched in Maryland, New York, and Colorado. Sanchez said the Centers hope to get through all seven states by the end of summer, before children go back to school and enroll in fall sports.
Get Covered. Get in the Game. resulted from the “Connecting Kids to Coverage” challenge issued in February by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The challenge compels government, community, and religious leaders to help enroll eligible but uninsured children. CMS will host a kick-off event later this month in Florida, in hopes that it will call the attention, of media and more sports programs, sports events.