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December 2009

Insuring the Hardest to Reach Families

The good news is that almost every uninsured child and many poor uninsured families in the Empire State are eligible for free or low-cost health care—and much has been done to simplify the enrollment process and expand coverage to as many children as possible.

The bad news is that there are still nearly 200,000 kids growing up in the five boroughs without health care. A 2009$50,000 grant to the Children’s Defense Fund – New York will work to enroll these kids, whose parents are, for the most part, either recently unemployed or from marginal immigrant communities. More families enrolled means better health, fewer crippling medical bills, and cost savings for the City and State.

Reaching the Recently Unemployed

Between March of 2008 and 2009, the unemployment rate in the City doubled, including many people who had never previously needed public assistance. Some are unaware that their kids can be covered by Child Health Plus, and that they, too, may be eligible for Medicaid or Family Health Plus. Applying for public assistance for the first time can be confusing, so the Children’s Defense Fund is making it easier, developing materials and reaching out to families at supermarkets, salons, and bodegas in poor and working class neighborhoods. They work with nonprofit organizations, local businesses, and community members to publicize and host enrollment events, such as Wellness Day at the beauty salon, where women can enroll in health insurance while they get their hair done.

Your Kids May be Eligible, Even if You Aren’t

Different challenges persist for immigrant families. With none of the federal health reform bills including coverage for undocumented immigrants, immigrant families might be surprised to learn that their children are and will continue to be eligible for health insurance from New York State. These families are understandably wary about going near anything governmental for fear of bringing up their immigration status. In addition, getting health care can be difficult even for native English speakers, so providing help for recent immigrants in their own language can make a big difference.

The Children’s Defense Fund will work with the New York Immigration Coalition to reach out to Haitian, Korean, South Asian, Balkan, Filipino, and Central American communities. Jenny Rejeske of the Coalition says, “Our community partners, who have earned the trust and share the same language and culture as the community members they serve, play an essential role in educating their clients about public health insurance options and allaying their unique concerns.” The Fund will educate staff at these agencies about children’s right to insurance; create and distribute materials in native languages summarizing the enrollment process; and create a referral system to help immigrants find places to sign up.

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