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It seems everyone has been touched by the current economic crisis in some way. Its impact has been felt in thousands of Queens homes. Coupled with the emotional and financial turmoil of losing a job often comes the sudden loss of health coverage through one’s employer.
A child’s fever or skateboard accident now carries greater weight. A cancer diagnosis could spell financial ruin. Many families anticipate making hard choices throughout the borough.
But children often suffer the most. In fact, an August 2008 report on children’s health by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that having health insurance makes a difference in whether children receive the care they need, especially if they are ill. Nationally, 41 percent of uninsured children who have chronic health needs postpone or skip care, compared to 10 percent of children with chronic health needs who are enrolled in public programs.
Uninsured children are also less likely to have had a regular checkup to keep them healthy, with 77 percent of children with insurance receiving a “well child” checkup in the past year, compared to less than half of all children without insurance (45 percent).
Sadly, too many Americans pay the ultimate price for lacking health insurance. Following long−term studies, the Institute of Medicine concluded that, compared to insured adults, uninsured adults have a 25 percent greater risk of premature deaths and estimated that 18,000 to 22,000 American adults die annually because they are uninsured and cannot access the medical care they need.
For those left behind, large health care costs for uninsured, low−income families can be financially disastrous. A study of bankruptcy petitioners in 2001 indicated that medical problems, an illness or injury suffered by the debtor or a family member or substantial medical bills, were a factor in about 50 percent of all non−business filings that year.
In 38.4 percent of these cases, debtors who had a “major medical bankruptcy” had experienced a lapse in health insurance coverage during the two years before filing.
Cover the Uninsured Week (March 22−28) provides Fidelis Care, the state Catholic Health Plan, the opportunity to raise awareness for the plight of the uninsured. In Queens, more than 400,000 residents, including 58,000 children and teenagers, are uninsured, according to the state Health Department.
Most people do not realize that almost all children under 19, regardless of income, qualify for Child Health Plus. Coverage may be free or may require a premium payment starting as low as $9 a month based on family income. Adults ages 19 to 64 may also qualify for low−cost health coverage through Family Health Plus. Those enrolled in both programs can be covered for regular checkups, emergency care, dental and eye care, prescription drugs and more.
For one week in March, unprecedented national attention will be focused on the uninsured, and the country will learn what Fidelis Care, the largest government programs−based health plan in the state, has always known: The human impact of living without adequate health care is profound.
This is a truth we live and work with every day. It is why we do what we do. As a unique expression of the Roman Catholic Church’s healing ministry, Fidelis Care will continue to be a vital resource for our members and the uninsured we have yet to reach.
Mark L. Lane
©2009 Community Newspaper Group
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