The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has awarded Florida about $1.8 million to help the state sign up more children for health insurance.

According to the Children’s Movement of Florida, the state of Florida currently “ranks 49th in the nation in the percentage of uninsured infants, toddlers and other children, and one recent report places our state last. More than 18 percent of our children – about 800,000 of Florida’s youngest, most vulnerable citizens – do not have health insurance.”

According to a press release from Health and Human Services released today:

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) today announced $40 million in grants for efforts to identify and enroll children eligible for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Grants were awarded to 39 state agencies, community health centers, school-based organizations and non-profit groups in 23 states. The two-year grants are authorized under the Children’s Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA) of 2009.

“Today’s grants will help us identify and enroll children in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, ensuring that more children have the health care they need,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “Keeping Americans healthy from a young age is the right thing to do, and it saves money by avoiding preventable diseases and conditions as they get older. The activities we are funding will help eligible children get covered, stay healthy and prepare them to succeed in school.” The grants will build on the Secretary’s Connecting Kids to Coverage Challenge to find and enroll all eligible children and support outreach strategies that have been shown to be successful.

Today’s CHIPRA outreach grant announcement follows the August 12, 2011 release of a joint letter from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Education Secretary Arne Duncan to the nation’s governors urging them to encourage schools to “undertake children’s health coverage outreach and enrollment activities when classes begin this fall.” The letter suggests promising strategies such as enlisting school athletic coaches to help promote enrollment. HHS is supporting such efforts by providing a strategy guide to states, schools, community groups, and other stakeholders as part of the “Get Covered, Get in the Game” initiative the agency conducted in 2010 with CHIPRA funding.

CHIPRA, together with the Affordable Care Act, allocates a total of $140 million for enrollment and renewal outreach, including $112 million in grants to states, community groups and health care providers, $14 million specifically for organizations serving American Indians and Alaska Natives (AI/AN), and $14 million reserved for national enrollment campaign activities. The first $40 million in grants, as well as $10 million in AI/AN grants, were awarded in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Right now, children in Florida are particularly affected by the growing economic problems in the state. A new report shows that Florida ranks 36th in the nation in child health and overall well-being.

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