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Cooperative President & CEO Participates in Launch of Initiative to Raise Awareness and Enroll as Many Children as Possible Who are Eligible for Free or Affordable Government Health Insurance

An estimated 5,000 to 7,000 children in Camden County may be eligible for health insurance that they do not currently have. Income information and a reliable mailing address are all that’s needed to apply.

By Matt Skoufalos | April 22, 2024


April 22, 2024 - Matt Skoufalos, NJ Pen



At the conclusion of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) public health emergency, some 16,000 children were disenrolled from Medicaid coverage in five South Jersey counties: Burlington, Camden, Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem.


Of those, some 3,000 children in Camden City are without coverage, with Latinx/é children twice as likely to be uninsured, city officials said.


NJ Healthcare Cover All Kids initiative at KIPP Hatch Middle School in Camden City. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.


Overall, an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 children remain uninsured in Camden County. Through its “Cover All Kids” initiative, NJ FamilyCare aims to get them re-enrolled again.


Representatives from the state- and federally funded affordable health insurance provider visited Hatch Middle School in Camden City last week to announce the program.

Flanked by local health professionals and city and county officials, Maria Terlecki, Cover All Kids Implementation Lead for NJ FamilyCare, urged community members to “spread the word to get all the kids covered.”


Terlecki said one of the biggest hurdles to re-enrolling children has been their parents not responding to mail from the program.


“A lot of people moved since the renewal,” she said. “Make sure you have the correct address, and respond to NJ Family Care.”


Jamie O’Brien, Clinical Coordinator Rutgers University School Nurse Specialty Program. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.


The most important information for families to have handy when responding to the program is the ability to verify their household incomes, said Victor Murray, Senior Director of Community Engagement and Capacity Building at the nonprofit Camden Coalition.


Most of the challenges families face in getting their children into the program are administrative, be they related to language barriers, or simply a lack of awareness that their benefits have expired, he said.


Those same gaps in information make it difficult for public health agencies to get their arms around how many more children still might need health insurance. Often, they can’t get a head count until children hit school age, said Helen Hannigan, President and CEO of the nonprofit Southern New Jersey Perinatal Cooperative.


Hannigan believes “there’s an opportunity” for pediatricians who see children in their earliest years to introduce NJ FamilyCare to families who need it.


“Instead of the first question being, ‘What’s your insurance?’ we want them to give the parents that information,” she said.


Other community health organizations, like CamCare, Cooper University Hospital, Osbourne Family Health Center and South Jersey Family Medical Center can help families enroll with the support of a patient navigator.


“We’re here to help you, and can meet you where you’re at,” said Jamie O’Brien, Clinical Coordinator at the Rutgers University School Nurse Specialty Program. “We can help in any language.”


Robin Cogan, Navigator Exchange Program Director at the Center for Family Services, and a former school nurse, described the role public-sector health professionals have traditionally played in helping uninsured families.


“Kids went through stuff because parents did not believe they would qualify,” Cogan said. “We may have been that hidden healthcare system, but no longer. We connect parents to coverage and then to the great healthcare resources in our city.”


Camden City Mayor Victor Carstarphen. Credit: Matt Skoufalos.


Health insurance keeps kids in school and limits learning loss, she said, helping children access things like glasses, medicine, care to manage chronic conditions, and emergency services.


“The Cover All Kids initiative is a game-changer for us as school nurses,” Cogan said.

“We can increase attendance by decreasing barriers to healthcare.”


Camden County Commissioner Jeff Nash spoke about the uninsured county population as evidence of a “disconnection” between the high-quality care services available locally and the barriers people face in accessing them.


“The most important thing we can do in government is to ensure the health and safety of our children,” Nash said. “We have this disconnection, and because of that, we’re unable to meet our commitment to families and children.”


“We have to meet our children and parents where they’re at,” Camden City Mayor Victor Carstarphen said. “I’m tasking everyone: get this material.


“We’ve got to get out in the community,” he said. “We have to say this is important.”

 

Read full story here as it appears in NJPen.com.

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