NLC to Help Cities Expand Children’s Access to Health Insurance

January 25, 2013

By Michael Karpman

$3.25 Million, Three-Year Initiative Kicks Off this Summer with Two Regional Leadership Academies

With a $3.25 million grant provided by The Atlantic Philanthropies through its national KidsWell Initiative, NLC's Institute for Youth, Education and Families (YEF Institute) has launched a new, three-year project to help municipal leaders increase children's access to health insurance coverage.  Competitively selected cities will have the opportunity to receive pass-through funding and technical assistance as they lead local efforts to boost children's enrollment in Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

For more than a decade, mayors, city councilmembers and other municipal officials have played critical roles in developing and accelerating the momentum of local outreach and enrollment campaigns.  NLC's Cities Expanding Children's Access to Health Care initiative will significantly strengthen the capacity of city leaders and other key local partners to develop data-driven action plans for maximizing children's participation in vital public health insurance programs.

The initiative will kick off this summer with two regional leadership academies that will provide in-depth training and peer learning opportunities to up to 20 city teams.  A smaller number of city teams will be selected to receive more intensive technical assistance and pass-through grants in subsequent phases of the project.

Seven Million Children and Youth Not Yet Covered

While millions of Americans will become newly eligible for Medicaid or tax credits in 2014 under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), approximately two-thirds of the nation's seven million uninsured children already qualify for coverage under Medicaid and CHIP.  These children are at grave risk of receiving inadequate medical care and experiencing poor health outcomes because they are not enrolled in a health insurance plan.

Among the greatest barriers to enrolling uninsured children in public or subsidized health insurance are a lack of awareness and complicated application and renewal processes.  Reaching and covering more children will therefore require concerted, collaborative efforts at the local level to identify eligible families, educate parents, and connect them to affordable coverage options.  PPACA and the 2009 CHIP Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) will bolster local outreach efforts already underway by streamlining application systems, providing states with incentives to meet enrollment targets and institute policy reforms, and providing state and local organizations with grant funding to facilitate enrollment, renewal and retention of children in Medicaid and CHIP.

Healthy Cities or Sick Cities?

Cities have a major stake in the availability of health care and insurance coverage to children.  When children lack access to preventive care, illnesses can become more serious and expensive to treat over time.  Unaddressed chronic health conditions can reduce school attendance and academic achievement at a time when education is becoming increasingly important to local economic development.  In addition, costly medical interventions can easily plunge families into financial crisis if they do not have insurance.

Moreover, cities often play central roles within the health care system as first responders, employers, and safety net providers and funders.  When families miss out on key state and federal benefits, cities ultimately absorb a portion of the increased cost burden resulting from lack of insurance coverage.

Partnerships to Reach the Uninsured

In recent years, municipal leaders in many cities have spearheaded or supported community-wide outreach campaigns to help low- and moderate-income residents obtain health care coverage.  Some of these campaigns have also sought to expand access to tax credits, nutrition programs, child care subsidies and other key federal and state benefits as part of broader efforts to promote family economic success.

In their efforts to increase health insurance coverage, cities have worked closely with other key organizations, including county health departments, other health care providers and social service agencies, schools, United Ways, businesses, and community organizations.  The Cities Expanding Children's Access to Health Care initiative will engage selected cities in building stronger local partnerships and developing comprehensive strategies to enroll more children in health insurance coverage.  NLC will also connect city leaders to existing initiatives, including those developed by recipients of federal CHIPRA outreach grants, and help local officials draw upon the expertise of partners in The Atlantic Philanthropies' national KidsWell Campaign.

Regional Leadership Academies

Within the next two months, NLC will invite cities to apply for one of two regional leadership academies that will be held during the summer of 2013.  Local teams of municipal officials and staff, health care and nonprofit organization representatives, and other partners from up to 20 cities will be selected to participate in these one-and-a-half-day convenings through a competitive process.  Leadership academy participants will have the opportunity to learn about effective outreach and enrollment strategies from national experts as well as other cities that have worked to increase the number of children with health insurance coverage.  One leadership academy will be held for 10 teams from the Eastern region of the country, while the other will be held for 10 teams from the Western half of the country.

Technical and Financial Assistance

NLC will select 8-10 of the cities participating in the leadership academies to receive more intensive technical assistance, peer learning opportunities, and up to $30,000 each in pass-through grants to develop strategic business plans for boosting children's enrollment in affordable health insurance.  The plans will be centered around broad-based public engagement campaigns that leverage the capacity of multiple local organizations and outline specific, measurable enrollment goals.

Based on these plans, NLC will then select up to six teams to receive continued assistance and grants for the implementation of their plans, with an average grant size of $260,000 per city over two years.  The implementation phase of the project will support cross-site meetings of city teams, public campaign launch events, and ongoing site-level assistance.

Throughout the initiative, NLC will identify and share promising practices developed by project sites that can inform the efforts of city leaders throughout the country who are concerned about the number of children in their communities without health insurance.

Details:  Further details on the application process for the Cities Expanding Children's Access to Health Care leadership academies will be made available in upcoming editions of The Weekly and in the YEF Institute e-newsletter.  For questions, please contact Heidi Goldberg at (202) 626-3069 or goldberg@nlc.org.