On Monday I was honored to announce a new partnership to connect kids and teens to health insurance coverage in Philadelphia. Joining me at the event, which was held before an auditorium full of students and faculty from Furness High School, were U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Congressman Chaka Fattah (PA-02), Deputy Superintendent Leroy Nunnery from the School District of Philadelphia and Sarah Martinez-Helfman, Executive Director of the Eagles Youth Partnership, and Furness Principal Timothy McKenna.
Health is fundamental to a child’s ability to succeed inside and outside the classroom, yet eight million children in the United States are uninsured – 222,000 of whom live in Pennsylvania. More than half these children could be helped by available public health insurance programs – if their parents signed them up. Up to five million children, and 129,000 of the children in Pennsylvania, are eligible for Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but are not enrolled. While the percentage of eligible children enrolled in public health programs in Pennsylvania is higher than the national average, more must be done to ensure every eligible child is enrolled.
Secretary Sebelius has issued a challenge to the Nation called “Connecting Kids to Coverage,” which asks groups to commit to taking on new efforts to enroll children and teenagers in health insurance programs. I was proud to announce at the event yesterday that Philadelphia is the first school district in the Nation, and the Eagles are the first professional sports team, to “step up” to Secretary Sebelius’s Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge. The school district and the Eagles Youth Partnership are partnering with Public Citizens for Children and Youth, a group with a longstanding commitment and experience in enrolling children and youth in Philadelphia in health insurance.
These Philadelphia-based organizations have demonstrated great leadership on behalf of children, and I would like to echo the Secretary’s Challenge to all of Pennsylvania: I ask that more community organizations and entities across Pennsylvania “step up!” and accept Secretary Sebelius’s challenge so that we can be sure every child and teen in the state has the coverage he or she needs to succeed in school, athletics and beyond.