EAGLE — Hundreds of Eagle County children may be eligible for health care, but their families don’t know it.
They’re called Eligible But Not Enrolled, and Eagle and Pitkin counties have some of the highest numbers of Colorado kids who qualify, said Rachael Messerich.
Messerich is running a program in the two resort counties designed to find people who don’t know they’re eligible for Medicaid and Child Health Plan Plus. CHP+ is a public health insurance program for children 18 or younger or pregnant women. Medicaid is a federal health care program for low-income people.
The Colorado Health Foundation is funding the program and has placed computers with eight community-based organizations around the region.
“Getting our eligible population enrolled in medical assistance is important because it affects our community’s health,” Messerich said.
The latest data from the Colorado Health Institute, shows that in 2009 there were 365 kids eligible for public health insurance but not enrolled. That number jumped to 797 kids in 2010.
“I can only imagine the possible increases for 2011 and 2012 since we don’t have the exact numbers yet,” Messerich said.
Healthy children perform better in school, and uninsured patients tend to delay seeking care, use fewer preventive services and are four times likely to need hospital care that could have been prevented, Messerich said.
“I would encourage families that are finding it difficult to make ends meet and can’t find the extra money for health insurance to go into Colorado PEAK and complete the screening,” Messerich said.
“Federal poverty guidelines have changed and you never know. It never hurts to check.”
For a family of four to qualify for CHP+, the maximum family income is $4,907, according to the latest federal guidelines.
A screening takes about 15 minutes, and when you’re done it’ll tell you what you may qualify for, and what you won’t, Messerich said.
“I always encourage people to do the screening first,” Messerich said.
If you don’t qualify for CHP+, then it will direct you to the Obamacare insurance exchange to check out your options.
Some people might be afraid, but they shouldn’t be, Messerich said.
“There’s a rumor flying around the Hispanic community that if their kids get benefits, their parents won’t be able to become citizens. That’s not true,” Messerich said.
Illegals cannot get benefits, she said, unless you’re a pregnant woman.
You need to be a permanent resident for five years to apply for these programs. If your children are U.S. citizens, then they’re eligible right away, assuming you meet the income criteria.
You can still do a paper application, if you think you must, but applying online is faster, Messerich said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or firstname.lastname@example.org.