At such a young age, having health coverage was extremely critical. Children at younger ages tend to need to visit the doctor more frequently for regular checks, illnesses, and immunizations for school. Thus, my sister was immediately concerned with the potential cost of doctor visits.
Like many families who cannot find affordable health coverage, my sister would not be able to pay out-of-pocket for a family doctor. If her children became ill, she worried as to how she could afford to see a doctor. Many families wait until illnesses become severe and then visit the emergency room. My sister knew emergency room visits would be even more expensive. She needed health coverage for her children as soon as possible.
Luckily, I had recently joined a foundation that believes one uninsured child is one too many.
The Santa Clara Family Health Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that promotes access to affordable, high quality health coverage for low-income children living in Santa Clara County through resource development and outreach. The foundation assists families to apply for subsidized health coverage, including the Healthy Kids program.
Modeled after the state's Healthy Families program, Healthy Kids provides medical, dental, vision, and pharmacy benefits for all children up to age 19 living in Santa Clara County whose families earn up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level and who are not eligible for Medi-Cal or Healthy Families. For example, a family of four can earn up to $67,068 a year and qualify for one of the affordable health coverage options.
An estimated 32 percent of all employed workers in Santa Clara County are paid $15 per hour or less, putting them well below the minimum earnings needed to meet the basic standard for self-sufficiency. Families enrolled in Healthy Kids contribute affordable monthly premiums equal to the premiums for the Healthy Families program.
If it had not been for my position at the foundation, I would not have known about Healthy Kids or other available health coverage options for low-income families. Many parents with children enrolled in Healthy Kids or other low-cost health coverage are in similar situations. They are unaware of the available programs or they do not believe they could qualify.
Given all the options, the foundation believes no child should be without health coverage, and is available to assist parents of uninsured children in applying for health coverage. To find out if you are eligible or if you need assistance in applying for health coverage, contact (877) 650-4555 or visit www.healthyfamilyfund.org.
The Children's Health Initiative was created to address the one out of eight children who were uninsured in Santa Clara County in 2001. Since its inception, more than 171,000 children have applied for health coverage through Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, or Healthy Kids. At the peak of enrollment in 2006, over 13,000 children were enrolled in Healthy Kids. Now, 96 percent of children in Santa Clara County have health coverage.
Everyone knows how expensive, but necessary, a dental check up can be. There is the potential to have cavities or other serious dental problems without even knowing it. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that dental disease is the most chronic childhood disease. Dental disease left untreated can be traumatic for children, making them fear the dentist. Fortunately, Healthy Kids members have dental coverage, easing the worry of many parents and their children.
Not only does having health coverage benefit the overall health of a child, but it also contributes to their ability to perform better in school. After being enrolled in Healthy Kids for a year, the children reported a 50 percent decline in missed school days due to illness.
My niece and nephew did not qualify for Healthy Kids, but an outreach specialist at the Foundation assisted my sister in applying for other public health coverage. Her children were enrolled in an affordable health plan and now my sister does not fear every time her children cough or have a fever. She can relax knowing they can visit a doctor without having to worry about paying huge out-of-pocket costs. Not only do my niece and nephew now have health coverage, but they also are able to access preventative dental services.
I believe that even one child without health coverage is one too many. I am grateful I was able to help my niece and nephew obtain health coverage and now I have the opportunity to help parents make sure their children get the care they deserve.
Jennifer Shelton is the development coordinator for the Santa Clara Family Health Foundation.