Figures: Many children have no insurance

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 21, 2001

FERRIDAY, La. – According to the latest figures, almost 300,000 Louisiana children were not covered by health insurance.

So in 1998, the Department of Health and Hospitals began an outreach to enroll children in the then-new Louisiana Children’s Insurance Health Program, better known as LaCHIP.

But so far, little more than 42,000 children have been enrolled, with more than 59,500 more enrolled in regular Medicaid programs. That is despite that fact that families that earn up to twice as much as the federal poverty level – for example, $2,942 a month for a family of four – are eligible.

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&uot;People just assume (LaCHIP) is associated with welfare. They say, ‘We both work, so we won’t qualify.’ And so they don’t apply,&uot;&160;said Emma Jackson of Medicaid’s Ferriday office.

So far, only 3,017 children in Concordia Parish and 1,414 in Catahoula have been certified for LaCHIP; the number of uninsured children in those parishes is not known.

So DHH workers are taking their message to the streets – or, in this case, the local discount store. From 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Aug. 11, the Concordia Parish Medicaid Office will hand out information – and trinkets and possibly refreshment to attract the curious – at the Ferriday Wal-Mart.

At the same time, Medicaid workers will be at the Fred’s store in Jonesville, trying to inform the public about the free health insurance program, which covers children through age 19.

LaCHIP provides Medicaid coverage for doctor visits for primary care as well as preventive and emergency care, immunizations, prescription medications, hospitalization, home health care and many other health services.

&uot;Everything from glasses to dental work – everything except braces,&uot;&160;Jackson said. &uot;One feature is that they have a schedule of doctor’s visits for each child to make sure they prevent health problems rather than waiting until a child’s sick to give them care.&uot;

The federal poverty index increases every April, so people who do not qualify for LaCHIP today because their income is too high might qualify when the index is next updated, according to information from DHH.