A Birthday for America's Children's Health Law, With the Gift of Health for Illinois's Kids

Kid and doctorIt’s been two years since Congress and President Obama enacted legislation to strengthen the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known here in Illinois as All Kids. And at this birthday party, Illinois’s families no longer have to wish and hold their breath when they blow out the candles. 

The children’s health law has helped Illinois cover more uninsured children through All Kids. As a result, 1.6 million children can get the checkups and preventive care they need to stay healthy and see the doctor when they get sick or injured.

That means parents struggling to keep their families afloat during tough economic times can have peace of mind that a playground injury or flu outbreak won’t drive the family deeper into debt. It means Illinois uses health dollars wisely – keeping kids healthy, rather than spending more on emergency room care for problems we should have prevented. And it means Illinois’s federal tax dollars come back into our economy, to protect local health care jobs.

Help us to celebrate this important anniversary. Thank your representatives in the General Assembly in Springfield for their continued support of All Kids and let them know that maintaining coverage for children should continue to be a top priority this year. Spread the word to parents and others in your community about All Kids, so we can help even more uninsured children to get the care they need to grow and thrive.


Let's Enroll Eligible Kids in All Kids Now

KidsThe Affordable Care Act, signed into law in March, is already protecting families from some of the abusive practices of the insurance industry. When the new law is fully phased in by 2014, it will help families secure affordable health coverage that can’t be taken away when they become sick or lose their job. In the meantime, most uninsured children in Illinois don’t have to wait until 2014 as they are already eligible for stable, affordable health coverage through the All Kids health insurance program.

Illinoisans should be proud that our state ranks as one of the top in the nation at getting our children into health care coverage many of them qualify for. Now let’s finish the job and enroll the remaining children! To accomplish this, we must answer:

  • Why are there still eligible but unenrolled children in Illinois?
  • What can we do about it?

To address the “why” question, let’s look at a Kaiser survey that found parents often lack accurate information about Medicaid/CHIP programs, don't know how to enroll their children, or find the enrollment process difficult. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are All Kids Application Agents across Illinois ready to answer questions and enroll children.

To address the “what can we do” question, the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families (CCF)—an independent research organization—has extensive experience in this area. Georgetown CCF has identified numerous strategies states can take to enroll and retain more eligible children such as:

  • streamlining the application process,
  • making it easier for families to keep their children enrolled as long as they are eligible,
  • linking with other public programs in which children may be enrolled, and
  • expanding outreach and educational efforts to inform more parents about All Kids. 

And the Shriver Center has created a toolkit to make it easier to plan and implement an All Kids enrollment event.  Let’s finish the job and enroll the remaining kids!  

Families interested in more information on enrolling their children in All Kids should contact 1-866-ALL-KIDS or go to

Community-Based Outreach Proves Successful for Enrolling Kids in All Kids

Healthy KidsEvery day organizations throughout the state of Illinois are actively enrolling children in the state’s comprehensive health insurance program called All Kids.  According to the All Kids website, All Kids Application Agents (AKAAs) are faith-based organizations, medical providers, unions, day care centers, local governments, and other community-based organizations that help families enroll in the state’s public health insurance programs. AKAAs provide families with the support and assistance they need to enroll in the state’s public health insurance programs. AKAAs are organizations and individuals that families trust, which is crucial in a process that asks families to provide personal information. 

Imagine how many kids AKAAs could enroll if brought together for a single, community-wide, well-publicized event. This was the thinking behind the 1,000 Healthy Kids Campaign undertaken by Resurrection Health Care in the summer of 2008. Families are often unaware of the state’s option for uninsured children. By partnering with organizations that families trust and getting the word out about the program and the event, the 1,000 Healthy Kids Campaign was able to enroll over 1,000 kids in All Kids in one day. 

The 1,000 Healthy Kids Campaign enlisted the help of community leaders to ensure that their event was a success. Involving people in the community who families already know and trust is a crucial part of a successful event. Rosemary Kaminski and Andrea Hernandez at the Laboure Outpatient Center at St. Joseph Hospital, which is part of the Resurrection Health Care network, enroll children everyday at the clinic, hold an annual health fair, and were a pivotal part of the 1,000 Healthy Kids Campaign. Kaminski says that the trust and reputation the clinic has goes a long way in getting families enrolled in All Kids, “We get referrals from our patients and they know we’re here…There is a big trust there.”

Those involved in the planning, preparation, and execution of the event said that seeing their hard work come to fruition on the day of the event made their work worth it. Julie Derrig, who was part of the team that planned the event and served as a field captain on the day of the event, recounts that by 8:30 a.m. families were already lining up to enroll their kids in All Kids. 

The 1,000 Healthy Kids Campaign event successfully enrolled over 1,000 kids, but equally important the campaign made the people of the City of Chicago aware of a wonderful program available to families. The effort equipped families with the information and tools to enroll their children in health insurance, even if they were not able to enroll on the day of the event. Although the event was Chicago-based, the event headquarters received phone calls from families in Lake County looking for information. Outreach and education around All Kids can be as important as enrolling people in the program

The success of the 1,000 Healthy Kids Campaign can serve as inspiration for other enrollment events. However, organizations and communities should not feel like an effort is futile unless they can enroll 1,000 kids. Every kid enrolled in All Kids is another kid who will have access to the health care they need and another kid who will be connected to a primary care doctor. Check out the Shriver Center’s All Kids Enrollment Event Toolkit for more information on executing an enrollment or outreach event in your community.

This post was coauthored by Carrie Gilbert.