Health Coverage for Kids Low-Cost but Little Used

The Washington Post
June 1, 2001

By Ceci Connolly

Steven A. Schroeder, M.D., President and CEO of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:

"What we discovered was that six out of ten parents whose children qualified for CHIP or Medicaid didn't think they were eligible."

"He then hired ad makers at GMMB for a $48 million promotional campaign that used the power of television and the creativity of grass-roots groups to reel in new participants."

Comment: It is ironic that a large advertising budget is deemed to be required to sell a program of public insurance. Yet, it will be impossible to enroll every eligible child because of other obstacles, including access to the enrollment process for the eligible, the stigma of a program that smacks of welfare (income eligibility standards), difficulties in re-accessing the process for continued enrollment, premiums that are perceived to be unaffordable for those with no disposable income, changing eligibility because of changing family income levels, and isolated incidences of bureaucratic sloth, amongst other problems. At best, all efforts to increase enrollment can only raise the threshold of the steady state of enrollment, that is, raising the level at which those exiting the program equate to new enrollees. The only way to be sure that all children are enrolled, not to mention their parents, is to make insurance truly universal and truly permanent for life. We lack only the political will to adopt the moral imperative: publicly-administered, universal health insurance with everybody in, nobody out. Let's work on creating that will.