McAuliffe marks 15th anniversary of Virginia Children’s Health Insurance Program

virginiaGovernor Terry McAuliffe joined Dr. Rosa Atkins, the Superintendent of Charlottesville Public Schools; Dr. Karen Rheuban, a Pediatric Cardiologist at University of Virginia and a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics; and Deborah Oswalt, Executive Director of the Virginia Health Care Foundation to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the Family Access to Medical Insurance Security program (FAMIS) in Virginia. FAMIS, Virginia’s Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides quality, low-cost health insurance to children and teenagers of working families across the Commonwealth.

“We are celebrating an important milestone in the Commonwealth’s history, as FAMIS has provided more than 630,000 children in Virginia with health insurance over the past fifteen years,” said Governor McAuliffe, speaking at today’s event. “Since 2001, the Virginia Department of Education and local schools across Virginia have been the cornerstones for our FAMIS outreach efforts, ensuring parents know about the program and helping families enroll their children. The program’s success is attributed to the hard work of all the state and local agencies, as well as the medical community in Virginia. We will continue to make sure our children across the Commonwealth have access to quality, affordable health care options so that they can reach their full potential in the new Virginia economy.”

Since 2001 over 630,000 children have received health insurance through the FAMIS program.  FAMIS also helps enroll thousands of children into the children’s Medicaid program, FAMIS Plus. Together, these two programs have provided critical health insurance coverage to more than 1.6 million Virginia children over the past fifteen years.

Emphasizing the real-life impact of FAMIS on families, Dr. Karen Rheuban stated, “Just yesterday, I personally cared for eight patients in my pediatric cardiology clinic and because of Medicaid and FAMIS, not one of those families had to choose between paying the rent or feeding their children and getting the right care and medication for their child.”

Currently, monthly children’s enrollment in FAMIS and FAMIS Plus is almost 600,000 children. However, there are still an estimated 75,000 uninsured children and teenagers in Virginia that qualify for FAMIS or FAMIS Plus.

“When I ran for governor in 2001, Virginia’s refusal to participate in the children’s health insurance program was a national embarrassment. Only about 17 percent of our eligible kids were enrolled, and Virginia was turning away almost $60 million in federal support — dollars which were then redistributed to other states,” said U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner, who rebranded the program as FAMIS and launched its dramatic turnaround. “As governor, I made FAMIS one of our top priorities. We simplified the application process, and broadened outreach to eligible families. Ultimately, we signed-up 98 percent of eligible children, improving health outcomes for young people across Virginia and providing affordability and peace of mind for their parents. In fact, by 2005, the nonpartisan Kaiser Health Foundation honored Virginia’s FAMIS as the most dramatically improved children’s health insurance effort anywhere in the country. I remain very, very proud of the continued success of FAMIS.”

Again this year, all 1,863 of Virginia’s public schools are distributing FAMIS Back-to-School flyers to students during the first week of school. Governor McAuliffe encouraged participants to join the team effort to get all children in Virginia health insurance coverage.

“Whether you are a student, teacher, parent, grandparent, or just someone who wants to help, you can share one of these flyers with a friend, or go to cover,” added Governor McAuliffe. “Show someone the website where they can get information about how to apply. Share social media posts from our FAMIS and Cover Virginia Facebook and Twitter accounts. For schools and other community partners, add links to on your website.”

Executive Director Deborah Oswalt concluded, “I remember the days before we had the FAMIS program; there were so many uninsured children. Now, more than 90 percent of eligible children are enrolled in FAMIS or FAMIS Plus. This has been done with a lot of hard work – team work – and strong leadership from the Executive branch. The Virginia Health Care Foundation is proud to be a long-time partner to make sure that all Virginia children have health insurance. We pledge to keep working together to make it to the finish line!”

For more information about the program and how to enroll, please visit

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