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WVCHIP program provides needed coverage

March 4, 2011

PARKERSBURG - The West Virginia Children's Health Insurance Program continues to provide needed coverage for many children throughout the Mid-Ohio Valley.

Currently, WVCHIP covers around 24,323 children, ages 18 and younger, across West Virginia.

The program was created to help working families who do not have health insurance for their children, program officials said. To keep children healthy, it is vital they receive the appropriate medical care so they can remain healthy and do well in school, they added.

Even as the economy has been down, coverage has not suffered, officials said.

"Even in a negative economic downturn, West Virginia remains a leader in assuring that its children retain health care coverage," said Sharon Carte, director of WVCHIP. "Our goal will continue to remain to protect and provide for our state's most valuable asset, our children."

The state was able to secure a multi-state grant from the federal government toward pediatric medical care. This five-year grant of $3.6 million will allow WVCHIP to look into developing additional medical programs and expand others, officials said.

The program is managed locally through the Parkersburg office of the Department of Health and Human Resources and is funded through a combination of federal funding and matching funds on the state level.

Currently there are 1,152 children covered under WVCHIP in Wood County, 400 in Jackson County, 316 in Roane County, 150 in Ritchie County, 122 in Calhoun County, 133 in Tyler County, 128 in Doddridge County, 113 in Wirt County, 106 in Pleasants County and 88 in Gilmer County, program officials said.

The WVCHIP program covers preventive care such as doctor visits, check-ups, hospital visits, immunizations, prescriptions, tests and x-rays, dental care, vision care, emergency care, mental health, diabetic supplies and case management for special needs.

A child's eligibility for the WVCHIP program is based on state residency, age, the family's income and lack of health insurance, state officials said.

People can apply for the program through the local office of the Department of Health and Human Resources or through an application on the program's website. WVCHIP applications are also available in area hospitals, schools, child care centers, primary care centers, Starting Point Centers, Family Resource Networks and libraries.

Families who are approved for the program are issued a card for one year. An evaluation is then done to see if coverage can continue.

A child is eligible if he or she lives in West Virginia; is 18 years old or younger; family lost coverage in the last three months; is not eligible for the West Virginia State Employee Health Insurance; is not eligible for West Virginia Medicaid; lives in a family meeting WVCHIP income guidelines; and is a United States citizen or qualified alien.

Over the past year, the program saw a slight dip in enrollment with a 1.73 percent drop. Carte attributes this mostly due to falling household incomes in a poor economy. Many families have renewed their coverage under Medicaid. As WVCHIP's enrollment dropped, children's coverage under Medicaid increased by more than three percent.

"The joint application and renewal process under CHIP and Medicaid helps to assure coverage in a bad economy as it should," Carte said.



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