Campaign hopes to reach children who lack insurance

Campaign hopes to reach children who lack insurance More than 9,600 South Dakota children who lack health insurance are potentially eligible for free coverage through the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). To reach parents and families, the South Dakota Coverage Kids Coalition today has its Back-to-School 2002 Campaign.

"All of South Dakota's children deserve the opportunity for a healthy start in life. CHIP helps provide that healthy start," said Susan Randall, Ph.D; coalition member. "No family should have to fear that the loss of job or an increase in their insurance premium will leave their child without health care. Let's get the word out to parents ? CHIP offers free health care coverage for children.

According to the u.s. Census Bureau, eight out of 10 uninsured children are in working families. Three-quarters of these families do not have access to an employer-provided health plan that covers children. A South Dakota family of four earning up to $36,000 a year or more may qualify for CHIP coverage for their children.

Since South Dakota initiated its state children's health insurance program in June 1998, approximately 24,000 children have been signed up for health care coverage through the South Dakota Children's Health Insurance Program. But there are many more who could be covered. Many parents, especially those who work, are simply unaware that their children are eligible. In fact, a national Covering Kids study found that among parents who are working and have eligible, uninsured kids, 71 percent do not think their children are eligible for the program.

"Every day South Dakota families with uninsured children are unnecessarily forced to make hard choices in caring for their kids," Terry Dosch, chairperson, South Dakota Covering Kids Coalition. "These sacrifices have far-reaching consequences for the more than 9,600 children who lack health insurance. With this campaign, we hope to inform parents that CHIP can help them improve their child's health and quality of life."

"When children are uninsured and don't have access to regular checkups and prescription medicines, we cannot expect them to achieve their potential," said Kim Overby, director of Women's and Children's Community Planning, Sioux Valley Hospital & USD Medical Center. "CHIP helps parents keep their children healthy so they can be successful in school."

"Unfortunately, many of the children in South Dakota working families are going without the health care they need when they might not have to," said Paula Hallberg, director of State Affairs, Community Healthcare Association of the Dakotas. "The Covering Kids enrollment drive is part of a nationwide effort to get South Dakota children the health care coverage they need to stay healthy."

Covering Kids is a national program of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to connect eligible families to CHIP coverage. The South Dakota Covering Kids Coalition is part of a national network organizing hundreds of Back-to-School outreach and enrollment events in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. These activities are designed to make more parents aware of the free health care coverage available in their state.

"The fact is more than 9,600 uninsured kids in South Dakota are potentially eligible for CHIP coverage," said Dosch. "We must get the word out to families that this program offers comprehensive and affordable health care coverage for children."

During the Back-to-School 2002 Campaign, the Covering Kids Coalition is also working with businesses throughout South Dakota to inform customers and employers about CHIP coverage. These businesses are making information available to families that are potentially eligible.

"As families prepare their kids for a successful school year, we want to encourage them to put enrolling their uninsured children for health care coverage at the top of their back-to-school checklist," said Scot Graff, CEO, Community Healthcare Association for the Dakotas. "Through our network of clinics, we believe we can reach many eligible families and help get their kids enrolled."

With CHIP coverage, children through age 18 have access to doctor visits, hospitalizations, prescriptions, vision and hearing screening, eye glasses, dental care and other services. Families who would like to learn more about free health care coverage can call toll-free 1-877-305-3064. For more information on CHIP, go to www.state.sd.us/social/ medical/CHIP or the Covering Kids website at www.coveringkids.org.

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