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For Immediate Release
August 9, 2006

Nick Ferreyros (202) 745-5102

America's Teachers Work Together to Help Uninsured Children Find Health Care Coverage

National Parent Teacher Association, National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers Help Get Kids Covered as Part of Nationwide Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School Campaign

Washington, DC - America's teachers are joining forces to help the more than 8 million children who will return to school this year without any health care coverage. Low-cost or free coverage is available to the majority of uninsured kids through the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) or Medicaid, and educators across the country are working together in support of the Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School Campaign, a nationwide effort to find and enroll eligible children in these programs.

Sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the annual Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School Campaign is kicking off in August with thousands of events planned nationwide. The campaign is working with teachers, school administrators and others to help inform families about the availability of low-cost and free health care coverage and encourage parents to find out if their children are eligible by calling toll free 1(877) KIDS-NOW.

"Enrolling eligible children in health coverage programs is an important part of getting them ready for the new school year and ensuring that they stay healthy so that they can perform in the classroom," said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Educators witness the serious problems faced by uninsured kids every day. They see the suffering that kids go through both in and out of the classroom as basic childhood illnesses go untreated. Teachers are trusted resources for parents, and valuable frontline partners in the Covering Kids & Families Back-to-School Campaign. We are grateful to every teacher who spreads the word about the availability of low-cost or free health care coverage."

Primarily because of coverage provided by Medicaid and SCHIP programs, the number of uninsured children in America has decreased by 2 million since 1997. Despite this success, however, more than seven out of 10 uninsured children are eligible for the programs but not enrolled. Experts say many working parents may not realize that their children are eligible, mistakenly believing they earn too much for their children to qualify.

To help engage America's teachers and parents, Covering Kids & Families organizers are being assisted by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the National Education Association (NEA) and the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). These organizations will use their communications resources to inform parents and teachers about these programs and explain how they can get involved in the campaign.

The American Federation of Teachers will help by publishing information about the campaign in its bi-monthly health newspaper HealthWire, its monthly newspaper American Teacher, and on its listservs, reaching more than a million readers, including teachers, education support personnel, school nurses and other health care professionals. AFT will include information about resources available, events taking place across the nation, and how to get involved in helping spread the message about low-cost and free health care coverage for working families. Covering Kids & Families also recently hosted a booth at the annual AFT conference, communicating directly with teachers and encouraging them to participate in the campaign.

The National Education Association will also encourage all of its members to get involved by promoting the effort through its Web site and publishing information on the campaign in NEA Today, which reaches 2.8 million readers.

The National PTA will publish information about the campaign in its four newsletters reaching parents, local PTA leaders, state PTA leaders and individuals interested in public policy. The organization will help highlight the plight of uninsured children and will encourage PTA members to get involved in the campaign by distributing campaign information at local schools.

"Children without proper medical care may have greater difficulty learning and may be absent more frequently than their peers. During the back-to-school time we are urging parents and teachers to work together to help ensure children are healthy, safe and learning to their maximum potential," said Anna Weselak, PTA national president. "For decades PTA members have worked for the wellness of children. That's why we support this effort and are working to get the word out about the availability of low-cost or free health care coverage."

In addition to educational outreach, Covering Kids & Families' activities are planned nationwide in the coming weeks to enroll eligible children in Medicaid or SCHIP. While eligibility varies, programs that cover doctor visits, hospitalizations, prescriptions and more exist in every state and the District of Columbia. Children in families of four earning up to $40,000 a year – or more – may qualify. Hundreds of national and local health and educational organizations are working with Covering Kids & Families to encourage parents of uninsured children to call toll free 1(877) KIDS-NOW to find out if their children are eligible.

The campaign has renewed its partnership with Major League Soccer (MLS) in 2006. At games and events across the country, MLS teams will highlight the campaign by hosting Covering Kids & Families information booths, including campaign information in programs and game literature, and airing a public service announcement featuring comedian Bernie Mac on stadium jumbotrons during matches.

Additional Back-to-School Campaign activities
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