Uninsured children can now get care Carroll effort pairs doctors, working-class families

October 13, 1997|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

The Health and Wellness Care Program, an innovative project that provides medical care to uninsured children in Carroll County, has begun to pair its first clients with local primary care doctors.

The program, a collaboration among private and public health care providers, seeks to serve working-class families who fall into the "gray area" of health care -- they can't afford health insurance, but make too much to qualify for public medical insurance programs for low-income families, such as Medicaid.

The Carroll County Children's Fund, a nonprofit foundation, spearheaded the Health and Wellness Care Program.

Ten children have been enrolled in the program, which has 25 physicians and nurse practitioners in its provider network.

"It's a wonderful thing for middle-class people," said Barbara, whose two teen-age daughters will receive routine, preventive medical care through the program. The woman asked that her last name not be used.

"My husband has worked in construction for 20 years and we don't have health insurance," Barbara said.

Carroll County Children's Fund estimates that 500 to 700 uninsured children might be eligible for the new program.

The nonprofit foundation was created in 1983 by Westminster pediatrician Dr. Karl Green to pay for the medical needs of acutely ill children with no insurance. Last year's closing of the county Health Department's pediatric care clinic led Carroll County Children's Fund to expand its services.

The Health and Wellness Care Program is a joint effort involving the county Health Department, Carroll County General Hospital and New American Health, a managed-care organization.

On Oct. 1, public health nurses with the county Health Department began screening families for the program's income eligibility requirements. Families with incomes up to 250 percent of the poverty level qualify. Under those guidelines, the maximum income for a family of four is $38,190.

Eligible families may select a primary-care doctor from participating physicians. The plan includes free regular checkups and well-care visits and limited coverage for prescriptions, lab and X-ray services. Providers may charge $5 for sick visits.

Carroll County General Hospital will absorb hospitalization costs associated with the program.

Patricia Rutley-Johnson, director of prevention and wellness services at New American Health, said the program expects to enroll about 75 children in its first year.

Pub Date: 10/13/97

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