The University of Kentucky (UK) Center of Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) is one of 38 community organizations to receive funding from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to help enroll eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP as part of the Connecting Kids to Coverage campaign. These awards, provided by the bipartisan Medical Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) legislation, are designed to build on the historic progress already made in increasing the number of children who have health coverage.

Having health coverage improves children’s health, increases their ability to succeed in school, and results in other positive outcomes. Recent research shows that these gains are long lasting, with children who gained coverage experiencing better health, higher educational attainment, and higher earnings as adults.

“Working to improve the health of our children and youth is vital to the health of Kentucky families,” said Fran Feltner, DNP, director of the UK CERH. “This is the first CMS grant we have ever received and it provides us with an unprecedented opportunity to reach both children and parents with the services they need to improve health outcomes,” said Feltner.

University of Kentucky Research Foundation, on behalf of UK CERH, is a first-time participant in the Connecting Kids to Coverage Outreach and Enrollment Program. The award will support targeted strategies to enroll eligible children who do not have health coverage, including application assistance and targeted outreach for children and parents in 40 counties of the rural, mountainous, Appalachian region of the state. Because it can be difficult to reach and engage individuals without insurance in rural areas, the CEHR will leverage an existing network of community health workers and community-based partnerships to enroll and retain eligible uninsured children and parents in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Targeted outreach will seek to meet individuals where they “work, pray, and play” by tapping into local gatherings like churches, community dinners, school-based programs, local stores, sporting events, and volunteer fire departments. Home visits for in-person application assistance will also be provided.

Awardees in the Connecting Kids to Coverage program include states, school districts, and local community organizations from across the country in areas where access to health coverage has been lagging, including among American Indians, children with learning disabilities, children living in rural communities, and teens.

“Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the rate of uninsurance for children has declined to its lowest levels on record. Fewer than 1 in 20 children are now uninsured,” said Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell. “Today’s awards will accelerate efforts in communities across America to continue this progress and reach millions of children who are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP but not yet enrolled.”

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has helped increase the numbers of children who have access to quality, affordable health coverage. According to the National Health Interview Survey, only 4.5 percent of children remained uninsured in 2015. In addition, a recent analysis of the American Community Survey found that 91 percent of eligible children are now enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, an increase of nearly 10 percentage points since 2008, according to the Urban Institute. These researchers also found that health coverage increased all subgroups of children studied, including among all age groups and in all regions of the country in 2014.CMS data also demonstrates that an additional 1 million children were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP in 2015 as compared with 2014.

These awards represent the fourth cycle of outreach and enrollment grants with the broad goal to reduce the number of children who are eligible, but are not enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP, and to keep them covered for as long as they qualify.

More information about this award and the Connecting Kids to Coverage Campaign can be found here.