by Phillip Berguist, Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act Manager, Michigan Primary Care Association. This opinion-editorial was published in the Detroit Free Press (9/7/10).
The start of a new school year is upon us, and stores across our state are filling the aisles with lunch boxes and enough loose-leaf paper to reach the moon. Store managers and stockers aren’t the only ones preparing for the new school year. Many parents are making checklists to be sure their children will head off to school ready to learn and thrive.
Health insurance should be at the top of every parent’s back-to-school list. Unfortunately, too many children in Michigan will arrive at the classroom this year without having health coverage. Health coverage is essential to accessing health care that is necessary to stay healthy, and health is a must for children to learn in school and succeed in life.
More than 172,000 children in Michigan have no health insurance, and our state ranks 30th in the country in children’s well-being. The parents of uninsured children are forced to gamble every day that their children won’t get sick or injured. Uninsured children are twice as likely as insured children to miss out on needed care, including doctor visits and check-ups.
Fortunately, Michigan has two low-cost or free health coverage programs that nearly 90% of the state’s uninsured children qualify for: MIChild and HealthyKids. These programs successfully cover more than 1 million children in Michigan who otherwise would be uninsured.
For a variety of reasons, many parents of eligible children either don’t know about the programs or mistakenly think they make too much money to qualify. Children in families of four earning up to $44,000 a year – or more – may qualify for low-cost or free health coverage. In fact, most uninsured kids come from families in which at least one parent works full-time.
As parents of uninsured kids get ready for the new school year, they should put calling 2-1-1 or visiting http://www.mpca.net/enroll.html at the top of their back-to-school checklist. Community Outreach Specialists can assist parents in finding out if their kids are eligible and enrolling them in-person or over-the-phone.
It is likely that all of us know an uninsured child. It might be our children, grandchildren, a friend’s child or the kids of people who provide services to us every day. We can help spread the word about these valuable insurance programs to the people who most need the information.
It seems to me that cool notebooks and fun lunch boxes are worthless if children can’t focus on schoolwork because they are sick and missing needed health care. Let’s do our part to make it a great school year for every child in Michigan.