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Kicking Off Campaign to Cover Kids in Commonwealth

PHOTO: At an event in Framingham, a new effort was launched this week to find and enroll Massachusetts school kids in health insurance plans. The Back to School campaign is targeting communities where English is a second language. Photo courtesy of Health Care for All.
PHOTO: At an event in Framingham, a new effort was launched this week to find and enroll Massachusetts school kids in health insurance plans. The Back to School campaign is targeting communities where English is a second language. Photo courtesy of Health Care for All.
September 5, 2014

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. - It's back-to-school time for kids in the Commonwealth - and time for an effort by health-care advocates to find those children who are without health insurance.

The "Back to School Campaign" kicked off with an event in Framingham, a community with a high concentration of immigrant families.

Although about 98 percent of children in Massachusetts are insured, said Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, executive director of Health Care For All, others are left vulnerable.

"Here in Massachusetts, we have the highest insurance rate in the country," she said, "but in fact, we've fallen a little short."

In partnership with five local groups, the two-week campaign will reach out to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking families to offer assistance in plowing through the paperwork of health-insurance policy applications and renewals, a difficult test at any grade level.

Rebeca Avila of Framingham has a daughter in first grade and a one-year-old son. When health-insurance renewal fell through the cracks recently, she said, she turned to Health Care for All for help.

"For so many people, they don't renew it on time and they cancel the insurance," she said. "And it's a nightmare, because you have to do everything from the beginning, all over again. So, this is what Health Care for All was helping me about."

Dr. Milagros Abreu is founder and president of the Latino Health Insurance Program, one of the groups involved in the "Back to School Campaign."

"Here in Massachusetts they are doing a wonderful, wonderful job getting children's enrollment to coverage," he said, "but still there are some barriers for assistance for some of these families."

Uninsured schoolchildren are more likely to have health problems, Slemmer said, and that's more likely to adversely affected their learning.

"This two-week period offers a terrific opportunity for families to consider whether they are or are not insured," she said, "and if they don't yet have health insurance, to reach out to Health Care for All and we'll help them navigate the system."

The group has a Helpline at 800-272-4232 for those with questions.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - MA