Archive for the ‘Health’ Category

April 26th, 2016

Helping Newly Insured California Families Get Care

By Kristelle Jose, The Children’s Partnership

When students suffer from untreated health problems, they are more likely to perform poorly in class and often miss school altogether. Yet caring for a child’s ailments such as asthma, diabetes, poor vision and too many dental cavities is often nearly impossible without access to health insurance.

In May, California will begin to provide the full scope of medical benefits, including preventive care, to undocumented immigrant children younger than 19 in lower-income families under Medi-Cal, the state’s public insurance program. Beginning in the 2015–2016 school year, public schools are required to provide information to families about their health coverage opportunities and enrollment assistance at the beginning of the school year.

By collaborating with educators and the education community in California, the ALL IN For Health Campaign—a project of The Children’s Partnership—has reached out to families that meet the income limit and enrolled their children into the state’s Medi-Cal health coverage. With coverage, families and children can see a doctor, fill a prescription, and have the peace of mind that health insurance coverage often provides—but only if they understand what having an insurance card can mean for them.

Many people, particularly the newly insured, find health insurance confusing, frustrating, and often overwhelming. Children’s ability to get the care they need depends on their parents’ ability to understand and navigate the coverage system on their behalf. When at least 1 in 3 parents of young children have limited health literacy skills, we know a family’s understanding of health insurance and the health care system will impact a child’s ability to get the care they need. Part of this understanding is knowing the benefits that are available through health coverage.

A key benefit under Medi-Cal, for example, is access to preventive services, such as well-child visits, immunizations, and developmental screenings for children, with no additional out-of-pocket costs. Access to regular, preventive health care is a key element to helping all children and families become healthy and stay healthy. Preventive care is particularly critical to children’s development, helping them thrive, stay in school and grow up to become healthy adults.

Research makes it clear that treatable and manageable health problems are behind many excused absences from school. Asthma is a leading cause of school absenteeism, accounting for about 14 million absences each school year, or one- third of all days of missed instruction, research shows. Children between 5 and 17 years miss nearly 2 million school days each year nationwide due to dental health problems. And some children miss school simply because they don’t have the immunizations required for enrollment.

As Medi-Cal coverage becomes more widely available in California, an important step to ensuring kids are able to obtain the health care they need is helping families to better understand what the coverage benefits are and how to enroll. Beyond the basics of navigating an unfamiliar health care system, parents need the right information to understand how preventive care can keep their kids healthy and in school every day possible.

Educating families about how to use their insurance and the importance of preventive services is critical to the well being of children and their ability to be in school every day and achieve. We are excited to continue our work with the education community to better the health of California’s students and families.

To learn more about how to spread the word about regular health care visits for kids check out ALL IN For Health Campaign’s materials.


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February 10th, 2016

Revised Medicaid Policy Can Increase Access to Health Services At School

Alex Mays, Senior Policy Analyst, Healthy Schools Campaign

We know that student health issues are a leading cause of chronic absenteeism. So making sure that kids have access to school health services – physical, dental, and behavioral – is an important part of strategies to reduce chronic absenteeism. The US Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently took an important step towards increasing access to school health services for students. In a letter to State Medicaid Directors, CMS removed a major barrier to school-based health care services and clarified that the free care policy does not apply to schools.

Since 1997, the free care policy has made it difficult for schools to receive Medicaid funds to pay for services that are available, without charge, to everyone in the community. Since school health providers serve the entire school community, many of the services they provide to Medicaid beneficiaries were considered not eligible for reimbursement. As a result, school health providers are typically underfunded and many students across the country do not have access to regular school health services. For example, less than 50% of students have access to a full-time school nurse, according to research from the National Association of School Nurses.

Research supports a clear link between providing kids better access to school health services and a drop in chromic student attendance. Allowing students to receive health services at school is a proven strategy for addressing the health conditions that interfere with a child’s ability to learn. This is especially true for younger students in K through 3rd grade, where research shows that just two days missed per month, whether excused because of illness, or unexcused, leads to academic trouble for students as early as the 5th grade.

The reversal of the free care policy presents an opportunity for schools and districts to increase access to school health services for students. The change also can make it easier for districts to provide the medical care and attention that many students need to stay healthy, so they are able to attend school every day. Student illnesses, such as colds and earaches, to more long-term health challenges such as asthma, diabetes, vision impairment and mental health issues, are a leading cause of chronic absenteeism.

The free care policy has been the focus of dispute for a number of state agencies. In 2004, the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services ruled that the free care policy, as applied to school districts, has no basis in federal Medicaid law, and is unenforceable when applied to schools. In keeping with this ruling CMS recently agreed to reimburse the San Francisco Unified School District for health services delivered to the general student population by school health professionals. Advocates such as Healthy Schools Campaign, Trust for America’s Health and the National Alliance for Medicaid in Education, have been working over the past decade to clarify that the free care policy does not apply to school-based health services.

There is still some work to be done. Before schools can apply for Medicaid reimbursement for health services, each state must decide to allow school districts to bill for additional health services delivered to students. In many states, this will require an amendment to the state Medicaid plan. Louisiana and South Carolina have already passed amendments to their state Medicaid plans to allow school districts to seek reimbursement for additional school health services, and California is not far behind.

One of the most important next steps in implementing this change will be supporting state-level efforts to implement the reversal of the free care policy. To better understand what the change in the free care policy means in your state, and how to leverage this opportunity to support student health services, and boost school attendance check out this stakeholder’s guide on the free care policy created by Healthy Schools Campaign.

We encourage you to spread the word about this recent change and the role that school-based health services can play in reducing chronic absenteeism in your community. We view it as a major important step forward in providing health care for students, especially for low-income students who may not have access to affordable health care. This revised policy also clearly supports the important connection between good health, learning, and student achievement.


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August 5th, 2014

Kaiser Permanente Blog Features Q&A with Hedy Chang

With students headed back to school in the next few weeks and Attendance Awareness Month starting in September, Kaiser Permanente’s Thriving Schools blog featured our director Hedy Chang today answering questions about how health care providers can help build a culture of attendance

Chang spoke about how her own experience as an advocate and as a parent showed her  “how chronic absence creates and entrenched underclass in our society that undermines success.” She told of watching a friend of her son’s slip behind because of family problems that led to frequent absences.

She also discussed the roles that doctors and nurses can play in addressing the barriers to good attendance:

Health care providers are important allies. They can help send the message to parents and school leaders that if you want to protect the long term health of your kids, you need to recognize that your kid needs to go to school every day. Health providers can be advocates for addressing the larger barriers to health and well-being in schools.

It’s important for parents to recognize that absences add up. Going to school every day is critical to your child’s future. Parents need to do all that they can to making sure that they have the support they need to get their kids to school. They may need to lean on other parents to so support them in making sure their kids get to school. Parents also play an important role in helping to voice when there are bigger barriers at school that need to be addressed to support a child’s attendance.

And teachers are the first line of early intervention and prevention. They are often the first to notice if kids are showing up or starting to have patterns of absence. Teachers need to be careful not to be too quick to judge where the problems are coming from. Instead, they should work with children and their families to find solutions and to create an environment of support and care.

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