B y Krystle S. Morey
There’s a new way to find family health insurance locally, which is important because the area has an unusually high number of uninsured residents.
Families throughout the Adirondacks and the Capital Region can now self-screen themselves for health insurance eligibility under a federal grant from the Department of Health and Human Services.
“The grant focuses on children, but wherever there’s a child, there’s a family,” said Gail Danforth, program manager for the Children’s Health Insurance Connection for the Adirondack Health Institute in Queensbury.
The grant allows the CHIC program to offer both free, online enrollment from any computer as well as onsite consultations at participating community outreach centers around the area. The original screening takes just five minutes to complete, followed by a meeting with a representative to finish the process.
“Families who have Internet access can screen themselves and complete 90 percent of the process at home,” said Courtney Smith, CHIC’s access coordinator.
Community partners, such as Granville Family Health, Washington County Head Start and the Whitehall Farmers’ Market host both scheduled screenings and appointments. The partners provide a place to meet and access to computers for families without Internet.
“We are giving families another tool in their toolbox,” Smith said. “All you need is proof of identification and proof of address.”
The cost of insurance and eligibility for families are based on income and the options can be viewed using the private portal screening tool. Danforth said insurance plans also differ by county.
Once the online application is processed, participants will receive a phone call from AHI within 24 hours.
AHI is a “lead source agency” that helps families in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Hamilton, Warren and Washington counties get health care. It is not an insurance carrier. AHI works with families to keep their regular doctors and works with them to check compatibility with the health care plans they are eligible for. Within 30-40 days of approval, participants will receive an insurance card in the mail.
“We are a separate party that helps families to facilitate enrollment,” Danforth said.
Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act, insurance companies cannot deny coverage to children. All children who are New York residents under the age of 19 are eligible for health insurance under the Child Health Plus plan. Under the law, all Americans are expected to either pay for health insurance by 2014 or be subject to an annual monetary penalty.
Although the exact numbers of insured change daily, the overall statistics show that 9.3 percent of residents birth to age 18 and 17.1 percent of adults 19-64 are uninsured in Washington county. “The percentage of people in our region from birth to 64 without health insurance exceeds state and national rates,” Danforth said, based on the 2008-09 census.
“Our goal is to increase the number of children and families enrolled,” Smith said.
For more information and screening options, visit www.adirondackhealthinstitute.org/childrens-health-insurance-connection or call 1-866-872-3740 ext. 32901 to schedule an appointment.