Despite expansions in children’s health insurance programs, rates of uninsurance in California continue to be high. Some 1.6 million California children remain uninsured; of these, more than 1.1 million are eligible for Healthy Families and Medi-Cal. Schools serve as a key, community-based site for Healthy Families and Medi-Cal outreach,
enrollment, and education. Schools are a logical place to reach large numbers of young people who are eligible for these government-sponsored health insurance programs. They are trusted, community-based organizations that have established relationships with the families of eligible children, and they have the flexibility to develop unique outreach and enrollment approaches that reflect the culture and needs of their communities. A school or school district can decide what services it wishes to offer and what funding to pursue, which is important since there is no one way to develop and manage a children’s health insurance outreach and enrollment program.
Although few resources are available to California public schools, the rationale for schools to help more children obtain health insurance is compelling. Absenteeism due to poor health is associated with school failure, and in recent years, both the federal and state governments have begun to hold schools accountable for students’ academic achievement. In order for children to succeed academically, they must be healthy enough to attend school regularly. They also must be able to see, hear, and think clearly and to be free from the pain and discomfort of illness. Therefore, school-based programs that help families obtain health insurance are a critical
link in the connection between health and learning.
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