Earlier this month, Florida joined 29 other states that offer Medicaid and CHIP coverage to children and pregnant women who legally reside in this country under five years. We, in Ohio, celebrate this monumental step with our friends in Florida. In Ohio, our “lifting” of the five-year bar – or adoption of the Immigrant Children’s Health and Improvement Act (ICHIA) option – came with much less fanfare.

For us, our work on immigrant coverage emerged from partnerships within Ohio’s ethnic and minority communities. As a result of that community connected work, we published a report, Reaching Ohio’s Ethnic Minority Children, which outlined key strategies for reaching more ethnic minority children and pregnant mothers the health coverage they need.  The change in policy for legal immigrant families in Ohio living here less than five years allowed the opportunity to amplify these key strategies and deepen our work, ensuring that the option was fully implemented. 

After deliberate investigation, Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio found that many healthcare provider systems and immigrant populations were unaware of the option for immediate coverage.  To remedy this, Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio employed a variety of strategies that other states could pursue. We focused our work on three primary ethnic minority populations in Ohio—Asian American and Pacific Islander, African, and Latino children—and worked with four community-based organizations to help gather data and analyze findings.

Our strategy entailed:

  • Advertising campaign: We published culturally competent advertisements about ICHIA and Medicaid eligibility, in targeted community-based newspapers, on public buses and on neighborhood benches within immigrant communities.
  • Marketing materials: We developed culturally competent one-page brochures and compelling posters and distributed the posters along with educational materials in targeted population community centers, grocery stores and daycare centers.
  • Targeted outreach in the community: We presented directly to respective county job and family service offices and qualified entities across the state with the highest concentrations of immigrant populations (on-going).
  • Multimedia channels: We are working to produce an online instructional video to be published on our website and distributed directly to community-based groups via email and social media.

Because of the state’s current focus on the high infant mortality rate—6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births overall, and a rate of 14.3 per 1,000 for black babies—we have the opportunity to reach audiences who are eager to find another strategy to better birth outcomes.  Knowing that connecting vulnerable pregnant women to prenatal care is a sure way to begin to save our babies, we are leveraging the statewide focus on maternal and infant health by underscoring the benefits of ICHIA in contributing to our state’s efforts to combat infant mortality. As we support community-based efforts to reverse negative infant mortality trends, we are educating community based partners about the opportunity to enroll women and children thanks to the ICHIA option.

This work will continue to be an important part of achieving health equity in Ohio and allowing more of Ohio’s children to celebrate their first birthday.  

Renuka Mayadev, Executive Director
Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio