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Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release February 23, 1999

                           February 23, 1999

Today, the President and First Lady, along with Governors Carper and Leavitt and Secretary Shalala, launch the nationwide "Insure Kids Now" campaign designed to enroll eligible but uninsured children in Medicaid and the new Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Building on prior efforts, this campaign will engage a broad-based, bipartisan, public-private coalition to use a variety of means to educate and assist families in insuring their children. Initial activities include launching a nationwide, toll-free number set up by the National Governors' Association in partnership with the Administration and Bell Atlantic to provide families with essential information about Medicaid and CHIP; placing the toll-free number on corporate products; airing public service announcements on TV and radio; enlisting grass-roots organizations to get the word out; and stepping up activities by over 10 Federal agencies that interact with working families.

CHILDREN'S HEALTH INSURANCE INITIATIVE The President and First Lady have made improving children's health a priority. Studies show that children without health insurance are more likely to be sick as newborns, less likely to be immunized as preschoolers, and less likely to receive medical treatment when they are injured.

Historic new options for children. In 1997, the President, with bipartisan Congressional support, created the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which devotes $24 billion dollars over five years for health coverage for children. Today, 47 states have implemented CHIP; they expect to enroll over 2.5 million children by September 2000.

The challenge of enrolling children. Ensuring that all eligible children get enrolled in health insurance programs is a formidable challenge. Barriers like complicated applications, lack of coordination between programs, and misinformation about eligibility criteria prevent uninsured children from getting the coverage that they need. To remove these barriers, the President has taken numerous actions to encourage states to streamline their application and enrollment processes, accept mail-in applications, and place eligibility workers in convenient locations. He also ordered federal agencies to provide active assistance in enrolling children through their many programs serving working families.

NEW NATIONWIDE "INSURE KIDS NOW" OUTREACH CAMPAIGN Building on last year's efforts, today the President and First Lady launch the "Insure Kids Now" public-private campaign. For the first time, major TV and radio networks, corporations, health care organizations, religious groups, and other community-based organizations will join federal agencies in disseminating information about children's health insurance.

Launching "1-877-KIDS NOW" Hotline. Today, Governors Carper and Leavitt unveiled 1-877 KIDS NOW (1-877-543-7669), a new toll free number developed by the National Governors Association in partnership with Bell Atlantic and the Clinton Administration, to provide state-specific information about Medicaid and CHIP to families in all 50 states. Families calling this number will receive information about eligibility criteria, benefits, and how to apply for coverage. Beginning in October, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) plans to assume responsibility for operating this toll-free line.

Running public service announcements on national television about Insure Kids Now. Beginning today, ABC, NBC, Univision, Turner Entertainment, the National Association of Broadcasters, and Viacom/Paramount will air public service announcements providing information about the importance of health insurance and promoting the Insure Kids Now number.

Airing radio advertisements about Insure Kids Now. Today, HHS will begin funding radio ads on Insure Kids Now nationwide, starting with Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, and Utah. Later this year, Bonneville radio network will run similar ads nationwide. Radio reaches 77 percent of consumers daily, making radio ads a highly effective way to reach the millions of families with children eligible for Medicaid or CHIP.

Publishing information about Insure Kids Now. This spring, USA Today will publish an editorial and Blue Cross/Blue Shield will publish a full page advertisement in the April issue of Time Magazine on children's health insurance. In addition, Pfizer, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the American Nurses Association, the United Way, the American College of Physicians, the National Collaboration for Youth, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Wyeth Lederle, Kaiser Permanente, Volunteers of America, the March of Dimes, the Points of Light Foundation, Hope for Kids, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the National Education Association, and religious organizations from across the country have agreed to put information on Insure Kids Now in their product handbooks, circulars, and mass mailings, as well as to distribute posters featuring the Insure Kids Now number to their clients and constituents. Print media is an effective educational tool, especially when used together with other media, because it allows the reader to reread and thoroughly digest the information.

Printing the Insure Kids Now toll free number on commonly used products. Building on a series of commitments made in 1998, K-Mart, General Motors, the American Dental Hygienists Association, and American Medical Response have pledged to put the new toll-free number on grocery bags, toothbrushes, diaper boxes, pharmaceutical products, child safety seats, and schoolbuses.

Expanding federal efforts to promote children's health insurance outreach. The President's FY 2000 budget includes over $1.2 billion to assist states to engage in children's health outreach activities. In addition, the Federal Interagency Task Force on children's health outreach has begun new outreach efforts include launching the new "" website; distributing 145,000 posters to over 20,000 health centers, providers, and other grantees; providing 92,000 USDA employees with information about outreach, including the new toll-free number on their wage and earning statements; and sending a letter and posters with the Insure Kids Now number to all 170 sites in the Department of Justice's Operation Weed and Seed program, a crime prevention and community revitalization initiative.