Getting healthcare to those in need

Published 9:55 pm Saturday, March 14, 2009

It is a scary time for families.

More and more people are losing their jobs, losing their homes and losing their investments in this sputtering economy.

A family with health concerns can have even more reasons for fear.

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According to the Virginia state Web site, an estimated 14.8 percent of people in Virginia have no health insurance, ranking the state 19th in the in the nation for uninsured citizens. According to the Peninsula Institute for Community Health, 123,000 children are uninsured.

But there is hope for families with uninsured children, and officials are working to get out the word that there are options in such situations.

Health insurance options are available for families in need through the program Family Access to Medical Insurance Security, which is offered through a grant from the Virginia Healthcare Foundation.

Dederia Whitely is a FAMIS Enrollment Coordinator operating out of the Main Street Physicians office on North Main Street, and it is her role to connect families to the appropriate insurance program for their financial and medical needs.

“Some folks know there is help out there, but are unsure where to go to sign up for it,” Whitely said. “It’s a huge educational process, because there are so many people who don’t know.”

Specifically, Whitely helps with five major programs aimed at various family situations.

FAMIS provides insurance for children in financial aid families who are at 130 to 200 percent of the poverty level set by the federal government.

Most people who qualify for FAMIS, Whitely said, do not qualify for Medicaid.

“The families I’ve met with have been very receptive,” Whitely said. “They are relieved.”

There are no enrollment costs of monthly premiums for the coverage, and most of the time co-payments are $2 to $5. The major eligibility requirements are that the children be under age 19, and not eligible for other state employment insurances.

Additionally, there is FAMIS Select, through which families who work but still cannot afford medical insurance, pay for private or employer-sponsored insurance.

With individual health insurance plans costing anywhere between $400 and $900 a month, Whitely said, it is a struggle for many families to make those kinds of payments. FAMIS Select helps lowers the monthly payment to closer to $50 a month, depending on the plan.

One problem, though, is that many that working families are unwilling to reach out for help.

“You look at anything that is state-sponsored as being assistance,” said Jewel Goodman, director of community service programs for the Peninsula Institute for Community Health. “People out there working are probably not interested in seeking assistance, because they’re trying to do it on their own. There is a stigma attached.”

Three other programs are more specific in who they can help.

FAMIS Plus is children’s Medicaid, FAMIS Moms helps uninsured pregnant women and Plan First is a teen-focused program to assist teenagers with sexually transmitted disease treatment and prevention.

“Our overall goal is to assess the whole family,” said Goodman. “We’re helping already, but we can get you even more help.”

March 22 through 28 is National Cover The Uninsured Week. To commemorate the week and promote the help that is available, Whitely will hold open enrollment sessions for FAMIS throughout the week at Main Street Physicians.

“We want people to know we’re here,” she said. “Help is just a phone call away.”

For more information, call Main Street Physicians at 925-1866.