UNINSURED: President to Announce Outreach Effort Today
On the heels of recent reports that about 12 million children lack health insurance, President Clinton today will "announce plans to step up federal efforts to enroll more children in existing government health insurance programs," the Los Angeles Times reports. The multi-agency effort will attempt to reach children under 19 primarily through school-based programs such as school lunches, "and by making it clear that state health agencies can use health program dollars for outreach." The program will also draw on the assistance of private-sector companies, such as K mart and Safeway. Safeway is printing a toll-free information number (877-KIDS NOW) on 9.1 million grocery bags to be distributed this year and next (Rubin, 10/12). The AP/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Clinton will also sign an executive order directing the secretaries of HHS, education and agriculture to report on how to "institutionalize" the school outreach program in six months. The federal government also plans to inform grandparents about the eligibility of their grandchildren through Social Security notices and informing people who seek tax preparation assistance through the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance program. A $9.5 million partnership between Washington and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation will also research outreach techniques, with a special focus on minority children. A White House statement noted that half of the 10 million children eligible for Medicaid and CHIP are unenrolled (10/12). "One thing we've learned is that it takes work to get children enrolled in these programs," said White House health policy adviser Chris Jennings. He added, "You have got to become part of the local community culture. ... It takes time to get there, but we're starting to make inroads, and the only way to ensure that progress continues is to build on our aggressive outreach." The Los Angeles Times notes that the effort was driven by the president, who seeks a health care legacy, and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, both of whom are running for higher office (10/12). The president's comments are expected to be delivered today before the American Academy of Pediatrics (AP/Journal Sentinel, 10/12).
The Hot Issue?
In other uninsured news:
- A recent Maryland study reveals that most uninsured in the state are "young, unemployed or self-employed, and a member of a minority group." However, about 15% come from households making more than $50,000 (Salganik, Baltimore Sun, 10/8).
- Chicago-area utility United Power has proposed paying $20 million "to pay private clinics and doctors groups to provide primary care to the uninsured," but Cook County administrators may balk. United Power for Action and Justice, an ad hoc group of 330 houses of worship and other organizations, distributed about 50,000 brochures Sunday "urging worshippers to write Cook County Commissioners in support" of the plan. The group also "wants the county to establish a referral center to connect eligible residents" with insurance programs, and has asked the state to spend its $9.1 billion tobacco settlement share on the uninsured. But a spokesperson for County Board President John Stroger said, "Our ongoing health system does not allow setting aside $20 million for this separate proposal" (Ritter, Chicago Sun-Times, 10/11).
- Texas Governor and Republican presidential front-runner George W. Bush has appointed the final three members of a blue-ribbon panel that will study why Texas has the highest percentage of uninsured in the nation. "They'll have plenty of time to produce a quality report," said Bush spokesperson Linda Edwards (Lee, Dallas Morning News, 10/9).
HHS Secretary Donna Shalala and Rep. Bill Thomas (R-CA), Chair of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on health, will address a National Chamber Foundation symposium tomorrow on The Forgotten Health Care Crisis: Uninsured Americans. Other confirmed speakers include Health Insurance Association of America President Chip Kahn, Princeton health economist Uwe Reinhardt, and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association President Patrick Hays. For more information, please call (202) 463-5500.