Nonprofit coalition aids in kids' state health care enrollment - East Valley Tribune: Health

Nonprofit coalition aids in kids' state health care enrollment

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Posted: Monday, June 20, 2011 5:15 am

Following through on the steps to get state-run health-care coverage can be daunting and stressful. With deadlines, renewals, appeals and the paper involved, some families may just give up.

But a coalition of local nonprofit organizations is providing hands-on assistance.

Kids Health Link was created by groups concerned about getting health coverage for children 5 years and younger. The organizations assist families filling out paperwork for the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state’s Medicaid program, or help connect these uninsured families to other low-cost medical and dental care in the community.

In Maricopa County, there are about 130,000 children up to age 18 who don’t have health insurance, said Matt Jewett, director of healthy policy with the Children’s Action Alliance.

“We are helping about 5,000 to 6,000 a year in Maricopa County” with applications, Jewett said. About 2,000 are from the East Valley.

First Things First, the voter-approved initiative to assist young children, is helping fund the effort.

“It’s very difficult for a lot of families to apply for benefits. It’s not as easy as people think,” Jewett said.

The organizations help families get all their paperwork in order before going to the Department of Economic Security offices. Much of it can be done online.

With the new DES process, families learn the day of their DES interviews whether or not they’re eligible, Jewett said.

“Thing is you have to have everything done right that day, otherwise you’re going to have to take a second day off work and stand in line several hours,” he said.

Though the state’s KidsCare program is frozen to new applicants, those already enrolled — about 19,000 children — must file for renewal on time or risk losing benefits. But AHCCCS is still open to families with children.

Kids Health Link can help with both programs, as well as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

“We are helping families stay enrolled in KidsCare by helping them renew their applications, making sure they know they have to enroll every year. We also help them enroll in AHCCCS,” Jewett said.

Generally, a family of four qualifies for AHCCCS if the annual income is $29,000 a year or lower, Jewett said. Guidelines change if there is a newborn in the family.

Kids Health Link partners are located in Apache Junction, Chandler, Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe.

For information, contact www.kidshealthlink.org or call (800) 235-9678.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6549 or mreese@evtrib.com

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