"Leaving welfare behind doesn't have to mean leaving your health coverage behind, too," is the message of new subway and radio ads sponsored by The Commonwealth Fund. The ads are designed to alert New Yorkers who have left¾or are about to leave¾welfare rolls for the workforce that they and their families can still get health care coverage through Medicaid. Hundreds of thousands in the city have lost Medicaid coverage because of confusion over their continued eligibility in the wake of welfare reform. Created by the award-winning firm Robbett Advocacy Media, the English- and Spanish-language ads will run during May and June on all subway lines and air on WSKQ-FM 97.9 ("La Mega"), WRKS-FM 98.7, WQHT-FM 97.1 ("Hot 97"), and WINS-AM 1010. The ads publicize HealthStat-a telephone helpline operated by the city that provides callers with information about Medicaid and Child Health Plus, prescreens them for eligibility, and offers referrals to community-based resources for assistance in applying for and keeping coverage. "The goal of this public education campaign is to ensure that everyone moving from welfare to work keeps their connection to the health system and increases their chance for a successful transition," said Karen Davis, president of The Commonwealth Fund. "This is an important public-private partnership to get more eligible New Yorkers enrolled in the Medicaid program and keep them enrolled." In theory, welfare and Medicaid eligibility were "delinked" so that individuals who lost eligibility for cash assistance could retain their health insurance and other essential supports, like food stamps. But in reality, the delinking of welfare and Medicaid has increased confusion over eligibility. Many New Yorkers who work in low-wage jobs and remain eligible for Medicaid are now losing their health coverage improperly. "Enormous effort has been focused on opening the front door to the system and enrolling more New Yorkers, but equal attention must be paid to closing the back door and keeping eligible people insured," said David Sandman, senior program officer at The Commonwealth Fund. "The retention of health coverage is key to a successful welfare reform strategy and helping people become self-sufficient."