We are commemorating our 25th Anniversary with 25 posts about our history and accomplishments between now and the Spotlight Gala on September 15. Join us for a celebration of Voices for Children and all of the organizations, lawmakers, and individuals who have supported our work on behalf of children. For details, visit voicesforchildren.com/spotlight-gala.
We’ve said it before, and will probably say it again, but health care coverage for kids matters. Being insured means that kids are more likely to get more timely, higher quality care that can help address issues before they become more serious. It also helps ensure that kids can fully participate in school. Voices for Children has a long history of working to get more kids access to health insurance.
In 1997, the federal government passed legislation to allow states to expand health care coverage through Medicaid to children whose family incomes were too high to qualify for Medicaid but who were still unable to afford to private insurance. The program was know as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or S-CHIP, and state funds would be matched by the federal government. States would be given flexibility in program design and administration and expected to cover about 30 percent of program costs.
In 1998, Voices for Children partnered with the Nebraska Academy of Family Physicians, the Nebraska Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the state Department of Health and Human Services, under then-Governor Ben Nelson, to push for the establishment of this program in Nebraska.
With the support of these groups and Governor Nelson, LB 1063 to establish Nebraska’s Kids Connection program was passed by the state Legislature. The new program would provide health insurance for children in families with incomes of up to 185% of the federal poverty level.
Voices for Children then received a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to help enroll newly eligible children in the program. In 2009, Voices for Children succesfully advocated to increase eligibility for the Kids Connection program up to 200% of the federal poverty level.
Although Kids Connection remains an important lifeline for children whose families would otherwise be unable to afford health insurance, there is still more work to be done to make the program a success. Health care costs have increased significantly since the late 1990s and many families are still unable to afford insurance.
In 2010, there were also an estimated 30,000 uninsured children in the state who should qualify for the Kids Connection program. More efforts directed toward outreach and enrollment could help to significantly decrease the number of uninsured children in the state and build on the success that the Kids Connection program has had in getting children insured.