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Uninsured to get health coverage

July 01, 1998|By DAVE McMILLION

More than 2,800 uninsured children and pregnant women in Washington County are expected to get health care coverage through a new state program that begins today, officials said.

The Maryland Children's Health Program is designed for families who cannot afford private insurance but who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.

Adults in those families may be able to get coverage for themselves, but cannot afford extending coverage to their children, said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

As a result, families might delay obtaining care for children for minor problems or preventive care like immunizations, said Dr. Robert L. Parker, Washington County health officer.

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"I think it's a tremendous benefit for the uninsured. It really means making a dent in some of these problems," said Parker.

Maryland Children's Health Program will provide health care coverage for pregnant women and children up to the age of 19 in working families with incomes of up to twice the federal poverty level.

For example, a family of four making $32,900 will be eligible under the program, officials said.

Pregnant women under the same categories will be eligible for coverage up to and including delivery, Parker said.

Parker said families with uninsured children might delay getting care for their children until they were forced to go to a doctor, and then "they try to pay the best they can."

Other families may go to the Community Free Clinic, which offers medical services free, or to other clinics that provided services based on a sliding payment scale, said Parker.

Statewide, an estimated 60,000 children and pregnant women are expected to be served by the program, officials said.

Maryland Children's Health Program is supplemented by the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, which was proposed by President Clinton and enacted by Congress in 1997.

The state is contributing $29 million toward the $76 million initiative, and the federal government is paying the rest, state officials said.

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