As children across the country get ready to head back to the classroom this fall, one important item that shouldn’t be forgotten from the to-do list is making sure they have health coverage. Studies have shown that academic performance and health insurance go hand in hand. Children who have health coverage miss fewer classes and perform better in school than those who are uninsured. But health coverage doesn’t just benefit students. Fewer missed days of school also mean fewer missed days of work for parents. With health coverage, children can get the routine and emergency care, immunizations, check-ups, eye exams, dental visits and mental health services they may need to fully participate in school and remain engaged in class. Health coverage also provides access to important care if children get sick or injured.
Nationwide, millions of school-aged children and teens qualify — and are enrolled — in free or low-cost health coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). These health programs can provide vital access to care, including well-child visits and vaccinations, to keep students focused on learning and give parents the peace of mind that comes with knowing their children are covered inside and outside the classroom. The start of the school year is a good opportunity to catch up on important well-child visits and ensure children are protected against vaccine-preventable diseases (like measles and mumps). And don’t forget — if a child is 6 months and older and hasn’t received their COVID-19 vaccine or booster, or they are aged 5 and older, parents should talk to their child’s doctor about getting it as soon as possible.
For the millions of families with children currently in Medicaid or CHIP, this is also a good time to make sure their address is up-to-date with their state program. Many people move over time and forget to update their address. These families might accidentally miss their renewal application that comes in the mail. Then, they could lose their health coverage too.
Medicaid and CHIP provide free or low-cost coverage for eligible children and teens up to age 19. Eligibility is dependent on household size and income and varies by state. States have different income eligibility rules, but in most states, children whose family has income up to $50,000 per year (for a family of four) may qualify for Medicaid or CHIP. In many states, family income can be even higher and children can still qualify. Young people up to 21 may be eligible for Medicaid. Having Medicaid or CHIP will not affect someone’s chance of becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident or U.S. Citizen. It is not considered a “public charge” except for people in long-term care facilities or institutions.
You can apply online, over the phone, by mail or in-person with your state’s Medicaid or CHIP agency or visit the “Find Coverage for Your Family” section on InsureKidsNow.gov. For more information, call 1-877-KIDS-NOW (1-877-543-7669). Enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP is open all year, and, once your child is enrolled, you need to renew their coverage every year to keep them covered. Make sure your state has your current mailing address, phone number, email, or other contact information, especially if you have moved in the last year. This way, they’ll be able to contact you about your Medicaid or CHIP coverage. Your state will mail you a letter about your coverage, including renewal information.