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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, August 24, 2001

Island Voices
Kids can't be kids without insurance

By Barbara Luksch
Director, Hawai'i Covering Kids Project

With the first day of school comes a year of new possibilities. Unfortunately, many students may be at a serious disadvantage before they enter the classroom.

 •  For more information on how to get insurance for a child, call 275-2000 on O'ahu or toll-free (877) 275-6569 on the Neighbor Islands, or visit www.coveringkids.com
Children without health insurance face many obstacles. A child who doesn't have eyeglasses and, therefore, cannot see the blackboard or who does not feel well cannot take full advantage of class time or other school experiences.

Also, research in Florida and Texas found that uninsured children are 25 percent more likely to miss school than their insured peers.

Not having health insurance often means that kids just can't be kids.

Parents with uninsured children often face hard financial choices — between paying the electric bill and paying the doctor, or filling the refrigerator and filling a prescription.

Many uninsured children head back to school without an annual checkup. There are students who won't participate in extra-curricular activities, not only because their parents fear injury, but also because they fear the impact that medical bills could have on their budget.

Of the estimated 10 million children in the United States who are uninsured, there are more than 22,000 in Hawai'i.

Fortunately, most uninsured children are eligible for free health insurance. Approximately 14,000 kids in Hawai'i could be covered if their parents enrolled them in QUEST or Medicaid, which pays for regular check-ups, doctor visits, emergency care, eyeglasses, immunizations, counseling, prescription medicines and dental care.

Last year, the state expanded its QUEST and Medicaid programs to include immigrants and children of working parents. In fact, children in a family of four making around $41,000 a year will qualify. Since eligibility is based on family size and income, larger families with higher incomes may also be eligible for free health insurance.

Health insurance is one of the most important tools to give children as they head back to school.