TALKING IT OVER
HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
I want to give you a new toll-free phone number -- 1-877-KIDS-NOW. I
hope you'll write it down or cut it out and pin it to your bulletin board.
Passing this number along could be the most important thing you do for a child
In August 1997, as part of the balanced budget agreement, my husband
signed into law the largest expansion of health care in 30 years, providing
coverage for millions of uninsured children and their parents. Although this
was an extraordinary commitment, I knew it would take lots of hard work to
actually get these children into the system, receiving the health care they
need. But I also knew a country that values its children so much, is at the
height of its prosperity and has the best health-care system in the world could
do the job.
More than 4 million children are eligible for Medicaid but not
enrolled. Millions of others could qualify for the Children's Health Insurance
Program because they have working parents who are employed by businesses that
don't provide health insurance and who can't afford to pay the premiums
themselves. Or they have lost their coverage when their parents have lost their
jobs. These parents want health insurance for their kids, but long and
complicated application forms and a lack of information present stumbling
For the families of these children, the slightest cough or the smallest
accident can cause enormous worry. A serious illness can lead to financial ruin
At the White House this week, I met Mary Smith of Baltimore, Md. Mary
and her husband both work, but for three years, they were unable to afford
health insurance for their two boys, Samuel Jr. and Thomas. Mary told me that
she felt like she was "walking on eggshells" the entire three years, especially
when the boys started playing sports. Since July 1998, her children have been
covered through CHIP, and now, she says she feels much more relaxed.
Mary Smith might be able to relax now, but we can't. It's up to each of
us to get this phone number into the hands of every single family that is
eligible for Medicaid or CHIP -- in the largest city or in the most remote
This week, the President and I, along with several governors and
private sector partners, launched the "Insure Kids Now" campaign to reach out
and enroll every eligible child.
The heart of the campaign is the toll-free number 1-877-KIDS-NOW
(1-877-543-7669). Thanks to an agreement between the National Governors
Association and Bell Atlantic, parents who call this number will be connected
with representatives in their state who will give them information about
benefits, eligibility and how to apply for coverage.
"Insure Kids Now" is the product of unprecedented support from
organizations all over the country, including the media and business, the
health-care industry and community groups. This week, NBC is unveiling a new
public service announcement to broadcast the number in prime time. I have taped
a PSA that will run on several networks including ABC, Turner Broadcasting,
Paramount and BET. Univision will air the information in Spanish, and radio
listeners in 45 states will soon begin hearing spots as well.
In addition, major corporations including McDonald's, K mart and Ralphs
Supermarkets are taking steps to display 1-877-KIDS-NOW on grocery bags and
restaurant place mats, on school buses and in doctors' offices -- even on the
toothbrushes that dentists give their patients.
And community organizations like the United Way, the National
Collaboration for Youth and others that reach millions of youngsters are
working to make sure that families hear about health insurance from the people
they trust the most -- teachers and principals, doctors and nurses, rabbis and
ministers, coaches and mentors.
While all these efforts are important, we must not forget that, first
and foremost, it is the responsibility of parents to call this number and sign
their kids up for health care. But that's not the end of the story. Everybody
can help. To make sure that more parents make this call, every one of us who
touches the life of a child in any way must join the effort.
Take a minute to think about the children you know -- the children in
your neighborhood, in your children's schools, on their sports teams, in
centers where you volunteer or in places where you worship. If any of them is
going without health insurance, give their parents this number --
1-877-KIDS-NOW. It could be the most important thing you do for a child this
COPYRIGHT 1997 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED