Massachusetts health advocacy organization Health Care for All (HCFA) sponsored a month-long campaign to enroll as many uninsured children in health coverage as possible. HCFA enlisted 66 organizations across the state to participate in its Statewide Enrollment Challenge, part of U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’s “Connecting Kids to Coverage” campaign. Three of the state’s major insurance providers donated awards for the six most successful Challenge participants.

This blog was originally posted on Health Care for All’s A Healthy Blog.

It’s been a whirlwind month, but the first phase of the “got coverage?” Kids Enrollment Challenge is DONE! And thanks to the tireless efforts of 66 enrollment organizations statewide, HCFA is proud to announce that 1,479 previously uninsured children now have health coverage!!

The end of the first phase was celebrated today at an event at the State House Grand Staircase, where state and federal leaders extended their gratitude to each of the participating organizations for their devotion and hard work over the last month to find and enroll at least 500 uninsured children. Nearly tripling our goal, we couldn’t be more grateful to these groups for standing up for kids.

Christie Hager, Regional Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Senator Sal DiDomenico, and Representatives Tackey Chan, Russell Holmes, Elizabeth Malia, Ellen Story and Alice Wolf were all in attendance to show their appreciation.

In speaking to the organizations, Rep. Story said that state leaders are asked to do a lot of hard and sometimes impossible tasks, but that she knows it is not too hard or impossible to get twelve-month eligibility for families and children. “It’s a no-brainer!” she exclaimed.

But the best appreciation came from the children and families who finally find themselves with insurance after years of no health coverage. Dennis Chang, father of two girls, told us that even though you cannot see his daughter’s illness, it is still there and he is grateful for the coverage he now has to pay for her doctor’s visits. Sonia Costa’s child was born prematurely and she says getting health care coverage made all the difference. Vilma Donis, who found out about the program through church, merely sighed “Thank God!” once she, her son and daughter were enrolled in coverage. Obviously, the work of each of the 66 enrollment organizations will yield healthier outcomes for generations to come.

Today’s event was multipurpose, as it allowed HCFA to both celebrate these organizations and to also kick off the next phase of its enrollment challenge: helping kids retain their health care coverage.

Many participating enrollment groups found that the reason children lack health insurance is because parents are often not sure how or when to reenroll their kids each year. In an effort to address this issue, HCFA has asked these organizations to continue to help keep those kids connected to care by advising parents about the best ways to stay enrolled. For the second phase of the challenge, HCFA has provided participating organizations with educational outreach materials, including bookmarks and magnets, which detail the steps of how to maintain health coverage. These materials feature actionable reminders, such as informing MassHealth about changes in employment status or address, and when their family’s health insurance renewal is due.

We were so pleased with the organizations’ enthusiasm to sign on to the next phase to focus on coverage retention! Got coverage? 1,479 kids do now!!

-Katy Capers, Health Care for All