MEDI-CAL/HEALTHY FAMILIES: Schools Ideal for Outreach Efforts, Report says
School-based outreach efforts have "great potential for enrolling uninsured children in state-sponsored health insurance programs," according to a new report released this week by Consumers Union. The report, "A Golden Opportunity: Improving Children's Health Through California's Schools," analyzed surveys of school nurses and other staff and reviews outreach efforts across the state. It found that most "school personnel recognize the benefits Healthy Families and Medi-Cal offer," and are "eager" to participate in outreach. However, many schools lack the funds and staff necessary to focus on outreach and enrollment efforts. Through a variety of successful pilot initiatives, schools have become the "number one source of requests for Healthy Families/Medi-Cal applications." More than 140 districts target children in the School Lunch program, while others provide specific help in filling out applications. Mary Ann Cryan, staff attorney and policy analyst at Consumers Union, said: "Engaging schools on health insurance outreach is a critical step toward extending health coverage to all of California's children. ... These pilot programs have demonstrated that schools are a trusted source for health insurance information and a viable location to undertake enrollment. But despite many successful initiatives across the state, our schools remain an underutlilized resource." The report recommends that the state and local governments: increase funding of such efforts; create additional pilot programs to test different school-based strategies; hire a health coordinator for each school district to promote insurance programs and enroll eligible children; and offer schools financial incentives to support such outreach efforts. Consumers Union is holding a regional conference on the topic today at Oakland's Samuel Merritt College, where school personnel, not-for-profit representatives and county agency workers will gather to study current efforts and look for ways to improve them (Consumers Union release, 4/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.