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Casey Invites Sec. Sebelius, Philly School District and Eagles Youth Partnership to Team Up to Help Kids Enroll in Health Insurance Programs

Casey Invites Sec. Sebelius, Philly School District and Eagles Youth Partnership to Team Up to Help Kids Enroll in Health Insurance Programs

PHILADELPHIA, PA– U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) today was joined by Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Leroy Nunnery, Deputy Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia, Sarah Martinez-Helfman, Executive Director of the Eagles Youth Partnership and Timothy McKenna, Principal of Furness High School for a pep rally to connect more of Philadelphia’s children and youth to health insurance.  Senator Casey invited the group together to discuss new initiatives underway to connect kids to coverage in Philadelphia through a focus on health coverage as a key to success in school, athletics and beyond. 
“Good health is critical to a child’s success inside and outside the classroom; yet, thousands of kids in Pennsylvania often go without needed health care because they are uninsured.  I invited Secretary Sebelius to join me here in Philadelphia today as we announce several new partnerships underway which will help to ensure that every child in Philadelphia who is eligible for, but not enrolled in, public health insurance programs gets connected to coverage,” said Senator Casey.  “The Secretary has issued a challenge to the nation to do more to enroll uninsured children.  I echo that challenge to Pennsylvania and I applaud the School District of Philadelphia and the Eagles Youth Partnership for ‘stepping up’ by committing to taking on new efforts to enroll children and teenagers in health insurance programs.”
 
“There’s nothing that’s more important to our future than the health of our children,” said Secretary Sebelius. “No student should have to miss school, or miss out on sports and other activities because they’re not getting the care they need to stay healthy. That’s why I’ve issued the Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge, and today with Senator Casey, The Eagles Youth Partnership, Public Citizens for Children and Youth and the School District of Philadelphia all stepping up to the challenge, we see that Pennsylvania is leading the way in the fight to get kids covered.”
 
“We welcome and endorse the important message that Secretary Sebelius, Senator Casey and our local partners such the Eagles Youth Partnership are conveying here today,” said School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Arlene C. Ackerman. “Together, we are spreading the word about the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), a critically important resource for those families who do not qualify for Medicaid health coverage and cannot afford private coverage. For many parents and their children, CHIP closes what we in education call ‘the opportunity gap’-in this instance, in terms of access to quality health care. Our ultimate goal is that no child whose family qualifies for CHIP goes uninsured.”
 
“Children need to be healthy in order to reach their potential and keep America strong.  That’s why Eagles Youth Partnership supports Secretary Sebelius’ challenge of 100% enrollment of children in health insurance,” said Sarah Martinez-Helfman, Executive Director of Eagles Youth Partnership.  “As a non-profit with the power of the Philadelphia Eagles behind us, we can build on the connections we already have with children, parents, schools and local hospitals, to support healthier children, families and communities.”
 
Senator Casey was a strong supporter of the law that expanded the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) which was signed into law in February 2009.  CHIP began as a state program in Pennsylvania when it was signed into law by Senator Casey’s father, Governor Robert P. Casey; it became a model for the national program that now provides health care coverage to more than 14 million American children. 
 
Senator Casey was a strong proponent of protecting health care for children during the health reform debate, fighting against an attempt to dismantle the CHIP program and helping to secure an extension of the CHIP program for two additional years.  During Senate Committee debate on the new health care law, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee passed Senator Casey’s provisions to increase outreach and facilitate enrollment for low-income families and children to ensure they are in the best programs to fit their needs.
 
During her visit, Secretary Sebelius discussed her challenge to communities and groups across the country, which is called “Connecting Kids to Coverage.”  This challenge is a five year campaign challenging federal officials, states, governors, mayors, community organizations, faith organizations and others to build on success and take the next step by finding and enrolling the five million children in the US who are eligible for public health insurance but unenrolled.
 
At the event, the Eagles Youth Partnership accepted Secretary Sebelius’ challenge, making them the first major athletic team to do so.  They will support the outreach and enrollment challenge through the Eagles Eye Mobile, which aims to increase the number of children who receive vision care.  The Eye Mobile examines approximately 3,300 Philadelphia school children annually and provides almost 5,000 pairs of glasses (two per child) free of charge.  For the more than 400 children that require a visit to a pediatric ophthalmologist, the Eye Mobile arranges a visit to a local hospital, transports the child and shares the cost of care with the hospital.  Participants in the rally had the opportunity to tour the Eagle Eye Mobile.
 
Through its partnership with Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY), a group with a longstanding commitment and experience in enrolling children and youth in Philadelphia, the School District of Philadelphia has worked to help ensure that all students have health insurance and have access to care.  When students are identified that may not have health insurance, school nurses contact the parent/guardian and connect families to PCCY to help them get enrolled in CHIP or Medicaid, if eligible.  At today’s event, Dr. Ackerman discussed the District’s commitment to increasing efforts to disseminate information and raise awareness -though existing vehicles such as the District’s Parent University, Home and School Association and through professional development of school nurses.  The School District of Philadelphia is the first school district in the country to accept the Secretary’s challenge.
 
As of September 2010, Philadelphia County has 28,261 children enrolled in CHIP.  Pennsylvania has an 85.9% participation rate in CHIP and Medicaid, compared to 81.8% nationally.  However, Pennsylvania has one of the largest numbers of eligible but uninsured children (129,000 out of 5 million nationally).
 
For more information on Pennsylvania’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, please visit: http://chipcoverspakids.com/ or call 1-800-986-KIDS.
           
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