County to extend health 'Caring Program' to adults

June 23, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

The success of Anne Arundel County's "Caring Program," which pays for health insurance for children whose families have none, has prompted health department officials to create a program for their parents, too.

Anne Arundel was the first local government in Maryland to offer health insurance and dental coverage for "gray-area" children, whose parents made too much money to enroll in government programs but could not afford their own coverage. Such insurance had previously been funded through private donations.

Now, with the Adult Primary Health Care Program, Anne Arundel has become the first county in the state to offer medical services to low-income, working adults whose employers do not provide health insurance and who don't qualify for Medicaid, the government-funded health insurance for the poor.

"These are the gray-area parents," said Louise Hayman, a spokeswoman for County Executive Robert R. Neall. "This certainly isn't going to solve the problem, but it certainly is a way to start to solve the problem."

The Caring Program for children provides insurance through Blue Cross-Blue Shield; the program for adults will provide its health care services through North Arundel Hospital's health alliance, which will include the North County Community Health Center and the Odenton Community Health Center. There may be links with other physicians' alliances in the county.

"This kind of health alliance partnership is really the direction things are seeming to go," said Evelyn Stein, a health department spokeswoman.

This program is aimed at "people who are working hard, who have no other resource for health care than the emergency room," Ms. Stein said. "We want to short-circuit that situation so they have an opportunity for some preventive health care."

According to a health survey done in 1992 by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, 40,000 county residents have no health insurance, about 15,000 children and 25,000 adults.

The benchmark for eligibility is a family of four with an annual income of no more than $27,000 a year.

The health care program, which county officials will unveil at a news conference today at North Arundel Hospital, will enroll 800 people in its first year at a cost of $400,000. Funding comes from state money given to the health department.

About 600 people have been enrolled, and many are already receiving services, Ms. Stein said. Referrals are coming from other health department programs.

The health care they will receive will stress preventive medicine, including routine check-ups and doctor visits and various screenings. Some prescription drugs also will be covered, Ms. Stein said.

Although the health department already has a priority list of people eligible for the program, anyone who thinks they might be eligible is welcome to call the Anne Arundel County Health Department at 222-7209.

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