The Centers for Medicaid & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced today that it will partner with Text4Baby, a free national health texting service, to promote enrollment in both Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and provide pregnant women and new mothers free text messages on important health care issues.
The announcement is part of activities marking the anniversaries of both the signing of the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2009 (CHIPRA) and the launch of Text4Baby, whose partners include Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, Voxiva, which provides the mobile health platforms, and a host of wireless carriers.
"As a mother, I know how important health coverage and health information is for pregnant women and new moms," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. "Through CHIPRA, the health care law and this partnership, we are helping more and more women across the country have the insurance and information they need to have healthy babies and keep them healthy as they grow up."
Organizations across the country are using the CHIPRA and Text4Baby anniversaries to highlight how access to both health coverage and health information is critical for families.
Activities are already taking place in locations in California, Florida, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, Oklahoma and others. For example, applicants using an online application to apply for Medicaid and CHIP in San Diego will now be able to enroll with Text4Baby directly; the Florida Department of Health will place contact information for both Text4Baby and Florida Healthy Kids (the State's children's health insurance program) on the envelopes used to send birth certificates to families with newborns; and Oklahoma hospitals are being encouraged to connect new mothers to Text4Baby when they enroll newborns in Medicaid right after birth.
"The partnership announced today will help encourage eligible mothers and children to enroll in Medicaid and CHIP," said Marilyn Tavenner, CMS Acting Administrator. "Text4Baby users will be alerted to the availability of health insurance options, and we are encouraging our partners and other organizations working to help get children enrolled in health coverage to make sure that new moms know how to sign up with Text4Baby for all kinds of health tips and reminders."
"Text-messaging is a part of the culture in terms of how we communicate," said U.S. Surgeon General, Regina Benjamin. "Using text-messaging to help conduct outreach to families about health coverage for their children is just one more way that the appropriate use of technology is enhancing how we make sure pregnant women and children get the health care they need."
In 2011, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program covered 43.5 million children. Under CHIPRA, CMS has awarded a total of $90 million in grants to states, Tribes, nonprofit groups, schools, health care providers and others to conduct activities to ensure that eligible children are enrolled in health coverage and remain enrolled for as long as they qualify.
"On the third anniversary of this law being enacted, we are providing an important new tool that can help connect mothers and children to affordable coverage," said Cindy Mann, CMS Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services. "This new tool is an important vehicle for reaching young mothers."
More than 184,000 current Text4Baby users are receiving a new message alerting them to the availability of free and low-cost health coverage through Medicaid and CHIP. The message will provide a connection to the InsureKidsNow phone number and website for information about how to sign up. Additional messages will be periodically texted to provide Text4Baby users information about the importance of prenatal visits for women and the value of health coverage for keeping children healthy and getting the care they need when they're sick.