Pittsburgh receives $200,000 grant to enroll children in health insurance plans

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Pittsburgh has won a $200,000 grant to sign up hundreds of children and teens who are eligible for public health insurance plans but are not enrolled.

The 18-month grant from the National League of Cities, announced Monday, will be used to launch an outreach program and hire staff to enroll the estimated 2,000 youngsters through age 18 in Pittsburgh who qualify for Medicaid and the Pennsylvania Children’s Health Insurance Program but are not signed up, because their parents are unaware they qualify or because they were previously registered and dropped from the rolls.

“As a whole, improving the health of our city is a priority of the mayor,” said Betty Cruz, Mayor Bill Peduto’s nonprofit and faith-based manager. “We’re so excited to finally see it come to fruition.”

The city’s Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment and the Allegheny County Health Department will work with more than a dozen neighborhood and community groups to launch the program, including Pittsburgh nonprofits such as the Consumer Health Coalition, a consumer health advocacy group, and Allies for Children, a children’s advocacy group.

The effort will be folded into the everyday work of city government and get exposure at community meetings and other city events, Ms. Cruz said.

Uninsured children are more likely to have untreated medical conditions, often lack access to prescription drugs and are less likely to get medical attention when they are injured, said Patrick Dowd, executive director of Allies for Children.

Though the grant requires the city to enroll at least 50 percent of uninsured children, Ms. Cruz said Mr. Peduto’s administration expects to exceed that figure.

“Our goal is to achieve 100 percent in the mayor’s first term,” she said.

Mr. Peduto, who will detail the program, titled Healthy Together, today during a news conference, said the city, one of eight to win the grants, intends to “build a model outreach effort that other cities can duplicate across the country.”

The grant comes from the league’‍s Cities Expanding Health Access for Children and Families Initiative, which Cindy Mann, deputy administrator with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, lauded.

“As a nation, we’ve made significant progress on enrolling eligible children in Medicaid and CHIP, but millions of children who qualify for coverage under these programs still need to sign up. Cities are vital partners in outreach and enrollment efforts,” she said in a news release the city prepared.


Robert Zullo: rzullo@post-gazette.com, 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @rczullo. First Published July 14, 2014 12:00 AM

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