We thought we had it all covered. The whole house was childproofed: The sockets were plugged, the gates were up, the appliances locked, the cabinets secured. After all, this was the second child. Just the right time for a little false sense of security.
I sat on the floor as my dear little Zach toddled around next to the coffee table, which, by the way, was wrapped in padding. He walked toward me with a big smile, holding his favorite music cassette. As he stepped just out of reach, he fell on to the edge of the plastic case, which drove deep into his little head.
He didn’t cry—always a bad sign. And as I turned him over, the gash was spurting blood and already swelling to the size of a small basketball. He now was sobbing as I yelled to my husband, “Get the car.”
While my husband ran to the garage, I dialed our pediatrician’s office and said, “My son has a head injury and I am taking him to Swedish Covenant’s emergency room. Please call ahead.” The receptionist at the emergency room took one look at my sweet baby boy and said, “My God, what happened?” I heard: “How could you let this happen?” And I burst into tears, losing all semblance of control.
But our doctor had called. The staff knew we were coming. So, blubbering mom and screaming boy were ushered back to the examining room. It was a rough few hours for the 2-year-old and his parents, but he was OK. You can barely see the scar.
He remembers the ice cream we had after leaving the emergency room. I remember the fear, the terror, the guilt and the bill.
But we were covered. That’s when I was so grateful to be working for the federal government. I had left journalism for a few years to work for a wonderful rabbi, a Clinton appointee. Hannah Rosenthal taught me so much about so many things. She also gave me a job that gave me federal health insurance.
It was one of the best health care plans there is. Once, when I showed up with a bad ankle at an after-hours care facility, the receptionist literally yelled back to the staff, “She’s got federal Blue Cross-Blue Shield. Give her everything.”
We paid only $163 of the thousands we were charged for Zach’s three-hour hospital visit. Among all my other worries, I did not have to worry if I could get my child taken care of. We were covered.
Months later, I also was covered when I visited my doctor and found out about my high blood pressure that seemed to kicked in after that hospital visit.
As parents, we care more about our child’s health than our own. And not to downplay dad, but there is truth in the saying, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”
“A healthy mom is one who can look after her children. Health care coverage for the whole family is good for the health of a child. It’s just that simple,” says Anne Marie Murphy, Illinois’ Medicaid director.
It is that simple and there are those in government that get it—they understand it’s important to cover moms and dads as well as kids.
In 1998, the federal government expanded Medicaid to include families who were earning too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private health insurance.
The federal government also made the deal sweeter for states. While Medicaid is a 50-50 payment deal between state and federal government, with this program Illinois actually now pays only 35 percent.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Healthy kids live and learn better; healthy adults are able to parent and provide better. Everything is better when you are healthy, when that part of your life is covered.
Every state has this program, but each has a different name and different rules.
In Illinois, the two programs are KidCare and FamilyCare. And I believe Gov. Rod Blagojevich gets it. I can’t say that about everything he does, but here he is doing good work.
(There are a few things you could do better, Governor. To keep people enrolled and stop wasting money, mail out new insurance cards once a year, not every month. Please, that’s just ridiculous.)
Still, in these tight budget times, Illinois is one of only three states to expand the program. (The other two? Idaho and Wyoming.) So, now a family of four earning $38,000 can qualify for health coverage.
They qualify. The trouble is, they don’t know it.
With the expansion, it was expected another 20,000 families would sign up. Only 4,000 have. “These families don’t think they are eligible,” says Murphy. “And it’s not true.”
But the state doesn’t have enough money to get the word out. It’s just not there.
So, I have a plan. As parents, we know one of the best ways we get information is from one another. I’m asking all of you to help.
You may think your friends don’t need this program but who knows—maybe they know people who do. Send out an e-mail, put a line in the school newsletter, tell your book group, put up a sign at the daycare center, your church, your synagogue or your mosque.
It can read: “Are you a family earning $38,000 a year? If so, you and your children might qualify for a government program that could help you get low- or no-cost health insurance. This is not a gimmick or a commercial, call the state at (866) 468-7543.”
There are at least 16,000 parents who need this message and I think we can reach a few of them.
Let’s get them covered and give them a true sense of security.
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