Back-to-school drive targets children with no health insurance

By Theresa Schmidt - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Research shows healthy children do better in school than those who are often sick. That's why a back to school enrollment drive is underway to get uninsured children signed up for LaCHIP-- the Louisiana Children's Health Insurance Program.

Jessica Mouton is trying to start a new life after circumstances caused her to become a single mom. She is working but admits help from government programs like the Louisiana Children's Health Insurance Program have given her hope for the future. Her oldest daughter receives health care through LaCHIP. "I have medical attention for my daughter that I would not have right now in the situations that I've been going through. She gets dental assistance, eye care, physical exams, check ups."

David Duplechian with Family and Youth Counseling is working with the state to educate and inform those who may qualify for LaChip. He says healthier children do better in school. "What we have found is that people who don't have health coverage for their child will typically let minor illnesses go untreated because they can't afford the cost of care and they eventually will wind up bringing their kids to the emergency room because the illness has progressed. So, the children are missing more school. And parents are missing time from work to be with those sick children."

LaCHIP provides coverage for primary health care such as doctor visits and dental. Duplechian says people may not know a mere disruption in income may allow them to qualify. "If you just have a month or two disruption in your income you may qualify for that year's coverage. People that maybe lost income from the hurricane because they were unable to work because their business was closed or they had evacuated, they may have qualified for LaCHIP at that point for a year's coverage."

Jessica hopes one day she will no longer need LaCHIP or other government assistance. "If it wasn't for the help that's out there now I'd probably be in a homeless shelter and having to worry about my children getting sick or getting taken away. It's wonderful that there is assistance out there that can help people like me."

She says she appreciates the help from taxpayers.

LaCHIP is paid for with a variety of federal and state tax sources. State director Ruth Kennedy says 78% of the funding comes from the federal government while 22% comes from the state. More children were added when LaCHIP was reauthorized by Congress in February 2009. Those children are paid for with the tobacco tax.

LaCHIP also offers insurance for some families who earn too much to qualify for the no cost coverage but still struggle. They pay fifty dollars a month plus co-payments.

For more information on qualifications for LaCHIP or the LaCHIP Affordable Plan and how to enroll call 877 2LaCHIP or click here for a link to the LaCHIP web site. For more information on the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals click here.

(Copyright 2009 KPLC-TV. All rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)