When I first came to Chicago from Boston, Massachusetts five years ago to work in Community Health, I was astonished to realize that it could take from four to six months to process an application for KidCare, the Illinois version of the State Medicaid Expansion program SCHIP (State Child Health Insurance Program.). Working with Dr. Cynthia Barnes Boyd, the executive Director of the Division of Community Health at University of Illinois in Chicago, on building and maintaining community health centers in Community-Based Organizations and Chicago Public Schools made me realize how challenging it is to provide health care services to the uninsured and underserved low-income children in the inner-city Chicago area. In Massachusetts, the SCHIP program has a policy called Presumptive Eligibility that allows uninsured children, after being screened for eligibility by a certified SCHIP application agent, to immediately obtain health care coverage until they are able to prove their case. We were able to bill the State Medicaid Department immediately for the services provided and were able to provide immediate and appropriate health care for this population.
In the year 2000, I called together a meeting of pediatricians with the assistance of the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics CATCH committee to discuss he feasibility of having this type of program in Illinois. I gave a presentation to the CATCH Committee, which led to a series of correspondence, meetings, and discussions with the Illinois Department of Public Aid to try to convince them to adopt this policy in Illinois.
Now, four years later, I am happy to announce that, as of May 3rd, 2004, the Illinois Department of Public Aid has decided to adopt this policy for children applying for KidCare health insurance which means that, in the future, thousands of uninsured children will be able to obtain access to health care services in a much more expedient fashion. I am now chairing a KidCare Policy Committee for the Covering Kids Illinois Project of the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Care Coalition, which meets on a regular basis to discuss policy decisions with regard to the KidCare program in Illinois.
I am grateful to our new Governer Rod Blagojevich, to Barry Maram, the new Director of Public Aid in Illinois, to the Illinois Maternal and Child Health Care Coalition, and the Illinois Chapter of the AAP for assisting me in allowing the voice of pediatricians to be heard when it comes to making important policy decisions which directly affect our ability to provide health care services to low-income families.
I hope that, by writing this article, I will motivate more pediatricians to become involved in advocacy projects to improve access to health care for impoverished children and their families. I will be happy to speak with anyone interested about ideas on how to get such programs started. For more information please feel free to contact Dr. Morris at Tmorris1@uic.edu.