UA to Aid in Identifying Alabama’s Uninsured Children

  • September 21st, 2002

by Suzanne Dowling

Dr. Rex Culp is helping design improved methods of providing health insurance for children.
Dr. Rex Culp is helping design improved methods of providing health insurance for children.

Although they live in the world’s wealthiest nation, more than 10 million children across America do not have health insurance. More than 70,000 of these children live in Alabama.

But for most of these children, there is help. Yet, most parents are either unaware that they qualify for assistance, or they become discouraged by the cumbersome enrollment process.

The University of Alabama, headed by Dr. Rex E. Culp in the College of Human Environmental Sciences, is helping identify these uninsured children through a $900,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for the foundation’s Covering Alabama Kids and Families project.

The Covering Alabama Kids and Families grant is part of a four-year, $55 million, national RWJF initiative that offers grants to statewide and local coalitions throughout the country to increase the number of eligible children and adults benefiting from federal and state health care coverage programs.

This is the second RWJF grant UA has received to assist with children’s health insurance. In 1999, UA was awarded a grant of more than $900,000 for the foundation’s Covering Kids project, a national heath access initiative for low-income, uninsured children.

“Covering Alabama Kids and Families seeks to assure that eligible, uninsured children enroll in health coverage programs by working closely with Alabama’s S-CHIP program, ALL Kids, Alabama-Medicaid agency, and the Alabama Child Caring Foundation to develop a strong, coordinated system that identifies and enrolls children through a more simplified and family-friendly process,” said Culp.

According to Culp, Medicaid, ALL Kids, and the Caring Program for Children jointly offer free or low-cost health care coverage for eligible children. In Alabama, a family of four earning up to $36,000 a year or more may qualify for coverage. Eligibility is based on family size and household income. Benefits include doctor visits, immunizations, medications, eyeglasses, and dental care.

In addition to the RWJF grant, local matching funds totaling $500,000 are being sought to create a local funding source. “This is being done to achieve sustainability so once these four years are completed we should be able to fade out, and the efforts would continue based on local funding,” said Culp.

Three community-based pilot projects for Coosa, Elmore and Chilton counties; Jefferson, Blount and Shelby counties; and Washington, Clarke and Choctaw counties will provide the testing ground for determining the best strategies for accomplishing Covering Alabama Kids goals and statewide replication efforts.

“The local areas are the strength because the goals of the grant are not only to identify and enroll kids but also to simplify the application process, coordinating across the programs,” said Tracy Carter, UA project manager of Covering Alabama Kids and Families.

“It’s crucial to the success of this program that we have local site coordinators who can go out there and talk to people and find out what are the barriers for those trying to enroll and what are the barriers for the eligibility workers in trying to maintain contact with the families,” said Culp.

“You can’t really learn that unless you’re out with that front-line staff enrolling families and working with the families that are affected by whatever changes you’re making,” Carter added.

Culp points out that when questions are raised, UA’s status as the lead agency in this program helps tremendously.

“UA is not in the insurance business, so we have no stake in terms of the insurance provision component. So it puts us in a nice position to be able to ask questions and to be a neutral party,” Culp said.

“As a neutral party, what we’ve been able to do is pull state agencies together with advocacy groups and opinions of families in local communities to create a successful system of communication that leads to a better vehicle of providing health insurance for Alabama’s children,” he said.

“It’s a win-win situation because the families get the coverage, and the programs work better and more efficiently because they know what each other’s policies are,” said Carter.

“We really have to rely on these partnerships because that’s the goal of this program — to create those connections that are sustainable and will continue long after the Covering Alabama Kids and Families grant is gone,” said Carter.

For more information, phone Covering Alabama Kids at 1-888-373-5437 or e-mail coveringkids@ches.ua.edu.

The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.