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.