Insurance options for kids
By Soren Velice
More than a year after its inception, Washington states Childrens Health Insurance Program (CHIP), along with other medical assistance programs, has met with some success in Blaine and Whatcom County.
About 1,000 people have signed up since March of 2000, said Ann Bright, Whatcom County Opportunity Councils medical outreach coordinator. Our goal is to have no uninsured kids in Whatcom County.
Department of Health and Human Services (DSHS) medical assistance program manager Selia Evans said 3,586 uninsured children in Whatcom County are eligible for some sort of medical assistance.
Blaine Family Service Centers Andrée Marcus-Nelson, trained by Bright to handle the programs locally, said many kids in Blaine and Birch Bay are eligible. Im not sure just how many kids are eligible in the Blaine/Birch Bay area, she said, but every child who qualifies for free/reduced lunch is eligible.
She said approximately 40 percent of Blaines students get free or reduced lunches. This only includes kids actually signed up for the program, so there are actually more kids out there who qualify, she said. She added she has talked to 80 people about the programs, 29 of which were referrals from the free/reduced lunch program; she also said she recently signed a family up for CHIP that did not qualify for free/reduced lunch.
Marcus-Nelson said the FSC spreads the word about medical assistance through parent groups, teachers, counselors and others, but she often finds people who havent heard about CHIP or other programs. I think its working well, she said, although I seem to continually run across kids who do not have medical and could easily qualify.
Marcus-Nelson said she thought part of the problem lies in the stigma attached to welfare - now called WorkFirst - but she stressed that medical assistance programs and WorkFirst, although both administered by DSHS, are separate programs with separate applications and eligibility requirements.
A family of four earning up to $44,000 per year can qualify for CHIP. If they pay for daycare, Evans said, well subtract that from their income. They cannot have existing insurance, she added.
CHIP costs families $10 per month per child, not to exceed $30 a month per family, with $5 co-pays for prescriptions and doctor visits and a limit on what a family would have to spend in a year.
Families interested in the programs can call the FSC at 332-7179 or call DSHS Healthy Kids Now toll-free at 1-877-543-7669.