More than 1,600 children in the city of Alexandria lack health insurance coverage. Children without health insurance are less likely to receive the medical, dental and vision care that they need and are more likely to miss school. Children with unmet medical needs are also likely to suffer from lower academic performance.
A new report, prepared by the ACPS School Health Advisory Board (SHAB) and by Jennifer Tolbert, an ACPS parent who also happens to be Director of State Health Reform for the Kaiser Family Foundation, shows that half of those children who are uninsured are potentially eligible for coverage through Medicaid or through the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known in Virginia as FAMIS. Another 35% are potentially eligible for subsidized coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
These families lack health insurance because they don’t know how and where to apply; they have difficulty completing the enrollment process and providing the required documentation; and they have language barriers or low literacy levels that make the whole process more challenging. Immigrant families may mistakenly believe that they don’t qualify or that the application process could jeopardize their status or expose undocumented family members. Other families mistakenly assume that their income is too high for government coverage.
SHAB has been working with school support teams (school nurses, social workers, psychologists, guidance counselors, etc.) to connect families to the following programs that provide free, confidential one-on-one assistance with applying for coverage. Both can also direct them to health care providers.
- Inova Partnership for Healthier Kids at 703-698-2550
- Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services at 703-535-5568
SHAB also recently presented this information to the Alexandria PTA Council, and PTA Presidents will be working with principals to find additional ways to get this information to their communities. Following the “it-takes-a-village” model, the wider that this information is disseminated throughout the city, the more likely it is that a coach, a room parent, a tutor, a mentor, a fellow church or synagogue member, or a neighbor can get it to a family who needs it.
The application process is similar to applying for the free and reduced-price lunch program in that eligibility is determined by family income and the number of family members. Eligible children must be U.S. citizens or legal immigrants and Virginia residents, but families are not required to divulge information on the immigration status of the adults.
Families with annual incomes up to $94,000 may qualify for reduced premiums for private health insurance through the Virginia Health Insurance Marketplace (www.healthcare.gov).
Another new initiative will help improve access to health care services to ACPS students and families on the west end of the city. ACPS has received a grant for $381,000 from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to purchase a mobile health unit that will provide primary care, dental care and mental health care at John Adams, Patrick Henry and William Ramsay elementary schools. The services will be provided to both insured and uninsured students and families by Alexandria Neighborhood Health Services starting this spring.
“Expanding Health Care Coverage among Alexandria’s Children: A Technical Assistance Guide for ACPS Administrators and School Support Teams”