No need for kids to be uninsured in Summit County
There are over 800 children in Summit County eligible for low-cost medical insurance, according to Robert Murphy, community support manager at the Family & Intercultural Resource Center. The problem is, Murphy said, many people don’t know their children qualify. The state of Colorado increased qualifying income levels last year for Colorado Health Plan Plus, an insurance plan for children under age 18 and pregnant women age 19 and over. Eligibility went from 205 percent of the federal poverty level to 250 percent. “So it was a pretty significant increase,” Murphy said. “Because it’s gone into more of a middle income level, there are a lot of people who have no idea they would qualify for this type of program.” Since many people don’t realize they’re eligible – a family of four making $4,594 or less a month may qualify – FIRC set up an outreach program to help get the word out. The organization has been adding releases to school information forms (so parents can choose to receive more information), and putting out radio and newspaper ads. “As many families in Summit County struggle with the high cost of health care, one of the most important things FIRC can do is make sure that medical emergencies don’t create financial crisis,” said Tamara Drangstviet, executive director of FIRC. “Making sure children are insured is one of the best ways to do this.”
“We have a client who is still paying off thousands of dollars worth of medical bills from an accident one of her children had a year ago,” said Joe Sanchez, community support coordinator for FIRC. “At the time of the incident her child could have qualified for CHP+, but since she was unaware of the program her child was never enrolled. Now it appears the mother will be making payments on this medical bill for several more years.” Sanchez said FIRC hopes to cut the figure of children eligible for CHP+, but not enrolled – which the nonprofit estimates to be about 800 – in half by August of 2012. “Since august of 2010, we’ve helped about 140 kids with applications for CHP+ and Medicaid,” Murphy said. “The more outreach we do, the more kids we find.” “I think there is a need for CHP+ based on the fact that it does allow you to make a little bit more money than basic Medicaid,” said Deb Crook, director of the Summit County Public Health Department. “The issue of uninsured people – and kids in particular – is an important one because we want to make sure kids have access to health care when they need it.”Sanchez said there is a yearly enrollment fee of $25 for one child, and $35 for multiple children through CHP+. He said the maximum co-pay for an enrolled child can be as little as $2 in some cases. The coverage is accepted at High Country Health Care, St. Anthony’s hospital, and several dental and optometrists in Summit County. Sanchez said children who appear to be qualified for CHP+ or Medicaid, and need to see a doctor immediately, are eligible for presumptive eligibility coverage. “It is temporary health coverage for the child while they are waiting for their application to process,” Sanchez said. “We’ve seen what happens when people don’t have insurance, and then all of a sudden they get hit with a medical bill and how quickly that can affect their ability to pay rent or utilities – eventually putting them into bankruptcy,” said Anita Overmyer, development and volunteer director at FIRC. “We’re just trying to help people stay more sustainable.”Families looking to enroll are encouraged to work with FIRC on the application, which is available at their website at http://www.summitfirc.org. To talk to Joe Sanchez, call (970) 262-3888 ext. 301, or email email@example.com. Those in neighboring counties are also welcome to contact FIRC. If you are pregnant and want to enroll for CHP+ or Medicaid, contact Kristen at Summit County Public Health at (970) 668-9161. More information about CHP+ is available at http://www.chpplus.org.
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