Nine-year-old Jessica gasped for air. The wheezing intensified. Her eyes widened in search of help from anyone in the room. This was another of many asthma attacks the youngster had to endure without the medical care she needed. Her mother could not afford to take her to the doctor.
Now, Jessica, who was one of 86,000 uninsured children in Alabama, gets the medical attention she needs thanks to the Alabama Child Caring Foundation Program. This non-governmental, privately supported program steps in to help needy children who are, for various reasons, excluded from government help. Most often, the income level is slightly above the qualifying threshold, but the parent still can’t afford medical insurance or pay for a doctor’s visit.The Caring Program provides primary and preventive care for children. It includes outpatient medical and vision care. Copays are waived by physicians. “Proper medical care prevents minor illnesses from developing into serious and even fatal conditions,” says Albert H. Rohling, executive director of the foundation. “Our recipients frequently come from a single parent family. If a parent has to stay home from work with an uninsured child, it compounds the problem. Loss of pay, or reduced chances for employment advances due to absences, often are the indirect result of a sick child.” More than 250 additional children are enrolled in the Caring Program each month. Before enrolling in this program, 83 percent had never been to a doctor. Children are recertified on an annual basis to determine continuing eligibility. More than $17 million has been donated to serve over 37,000 children under the age of 19 since the program began in 1988. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama donated half of that total, matching each contribution dollar for dollar. Alfa has been a partner in the program since the beginning, donating $108,000. Alfa Health Insurance is administered by Blue Cross. “Nothing compares to the joy of looking into the eyes of a healthy child,” said Dick Jones CEO of Blue Cross. “The success of the Caring Program is directly attributable to the team effort of donors, health care providers and Blue Cross. It is making a difference in thousands of young lives, one child at a time.”To be eligible for the Child Caring Program, the participant must be a resident of Alabama, under age 19, unmarried, uninsured, meet income criteria, not eligible for Alabama’s Medicaid or ALL Kids programs and be in school if school age.The average annual cost per child is $240, said Rohling. It also is the amount suggested to sponsor one child for one year. Private and company contributions are accepted for the non-profit foundation. For more information, or to make a donation, write: Alabama Child Caring Foundation, P.O. Box 830870, Birmingham, Ala., 35283.