Program seeks uninsured families

Published 10:03 pm Monday, February 28, 2011

Thousands of area families still are struggling from the results of a lagging economy the past few years.

As a result, many families do not have insurance and might be unaware that they could qualify for government-funded insurance.

The Obici Healthcare Foundation has provided funding for several local organizations to have outreach workers who work with families and help them apply for FAMIS, a Virginia program that provides insurance to low-income families with children or pregnant women.

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It is estimated that more than 100,000 children in Virginia are eligible for FAMIS but are not enrolled.

“My job is to help families and walk them through the whole process of applying for the insurance,” said Rigiri Gabel, an outreach worker with Catholic Charities of Eastern Virginia.

The effects of not having any kind of insurance are devastating. According to Gabel, uninsured children who are hospitalized for any reason are 60 percent more likely to die in the hospital than insured children, because of the lack of everyday preventive care.

Gabel works in Suffolk, Franklin, Smithfield, and Isle of Wight and Southampton counties. Families who need help come to her or are referred through other organizations.

Gabel helps families gather the documents they need to apply for FAMIS, fill out the forms and submit them.

Aside from looking for people who might qualify for the program, Gabel said, she also is seeking organizations that might come across people who qualify.

“We really want to offer any organizations that come across such clients as much information as possible,” Gabel said. “We’re just trying to get the word out there.”

Gabel said she will visit organizations, do presentations and leave them with information packets and referral forms. She also welcomes invitations to community events where she can set up a table with information.

“Trying to get different organizations to work with us is daunting at times,” she said. “People are not very sure whether to go ahead and help.”

Gabel is especially looking for food pantries and other similar organizations that help low-income families.

For more information, call 484-0703 or email