Assisting Local Families without Health Insurance
By John Collett
Cayuga Medical Center participates
in National Uninsured Week during the first week in May. Our goals are
two-fold: to help area residents enroll in state- and locally-funded
health-care plans for low-income families and children; and to draw attention
to a major national problem.
Forty-six million people in the
United States have no health insurance. Many more have insurance that is so
inadequate they cannot afford to seek health care when they need it because
they can’t afford the co-payment. The ramifications of this problem are
significant on two levels. The first and most immediate impact is on quality of
life: research shows that people who have no health insurance are afraid to seek
medical care because of the cost. By delaying visits to the doctor, minor
problems can develop into major illnesses, and their life expectancy may be
The additional impact affects the
health-care delivery system. In New York State, where most hospitals are
not-for-profit, our mandate is to provide care to any person who needs it,
whether or not they carry insurance. Uncompensated hospital care is an enormous
financial burden on hospitals, the health-care system, and the taxpayers.
What kind of help is available to
New York sponsors two programs for
uninsured residents that enable families and children to acquire health-care
coverage at little or no cost. The first program, called Family Health Plus, is
available to single adults, couples without children, and parents with limited
income who are between the ages of 19-64. To be eligible, you must be a
resident of New York State and a United States citizen, or you must fall under
one of many immigration categories.
The amount of family income you
have and the size of your family determine your eligibility for Family Health
Plus. This is a program that helps people who make too much income to qualify
for Medicaid but who still cannot afford health insurance on their own. The benefits
of Family Health Plus are that you pay nothing to enroll in the program, there
are no health insurance premiums, and you only make co-payments for certain
services when you visit the doctor. You also get comprehensive coverage for
doctor visits, hospital services, prescription drugs, and more. If you have
individual or work-related health insurance, you are not eligible to enroll for
Family Health Plus.
The second New York State sponsored
program is Child Health Plus.
This is a health insurance program
for children only (through age 18) and eligibility is based on family income.
There may be no costs to participating in the program, or there may be a
sliding fee scale for premiums, depending on income. The covered benefits are
the same as those listed above for Family Health Plus. Child Health Plus is a
good and comprehensive program.
How can I enroll in Family Health
Plus and Child Health Plus?
In Tompkins County, facilitators at
Catholic Charities can walk you through the enrollment process. In Cortland
County, you can contact the Department of Health. You can also call toll free
in New York State for more information on Family Health Plus at 1-877-9FH-PLUS
or go on to their Web site at www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/fhplus
To get more information about Child Health Plus, just call 1-800-698-4KID or go
to the Web site at www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/chplus
I’m interested in cancer screening tests but my health insurance policy doesn’t
cover them and I can’t afford to pay on my own?
have no health insurance, or if your health insurance policy does not cover the
cost of screening tests for breast, cervical, or colorectal cancer, you may be
eligible for help from The Cancer Services Program of Cortland and Tompkins Counties. With funding by the NYS
Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and
Cayuga Medical Center, The Cancer Services Program of Cortland and Tompkins Counties works with local health-care
practitioners to provide no-cost and low-cost clinical breast examinations,
mammograms, Pap tests, and colorectal screenings.
addition to cancer screening, The Cancer Services Program of Cortland and Tompkins Counties also provides
education about prostate cancer. To find out more, 277-0960.
What if the Emergency Department
doctor gives me a prescription but I can’t afford to fill it?
now help through a new program called Urgent Rx, developed in collaboration
with the United Way, the Health Planning Council, and Kinney Drugs pharmacies
in Tompkins County. Urgent Rx assists low-income, uninsured residents of
Tompkins County obtain medicine that has been prescribed in Cayuga Medical
Center’s Emergency Department and Convenient Care Center, enabling patients to
complete their treatment plans. For more information on Urgent RX, call the
Convenient Care Center at 274-4150 and ask to speak with one of our nurses.
John Collett has been controller at Cayuga Medical Center for seven
years. He also serves on the Board of Directors of Hospicare and Palliative
Care Services in Tompkins County.