Families that may have been turned down or believe they make too much money to qualify for Medicaid coverage or the Children's Health Insurance Program should check again.

Some of the qualifications have been changed and CHIP enrollment is no longer capped. Also, someone can earn 200 percent of the federal poverty level and still qualify for coverage.

A national report out this week highlights how important it is for children to have insurance, noting that huge numbers of children with chronic illnesses — those that most need coverage — don't have medical insurance, mainly because their parents simply can't afford to buy private coverage offered through the workplace.

"The report highlights many reasons why CHIP and Medicaid are absolutely essential for children whose parents cannot afford health insurance," said Karen Crompton, executive director of Voices for Utah Children.

The report backs up Utah findings. Children who have insurance are more likely to receive routine care and chronically ill children without insurance are far more likely to delay or forgo care that they need, sometimes desperately, Crompton said.

"Across the nation, we are seeing stories that affirm this report's findings," she said. This past year, a boy in Texas lost Medicaid coverage because of red tape and processing errors. He later died from untreated kidney cancer. The incident alarmed children's advocates around the country.

There is no need to have a repeat of that tragedy, but there are thousands of children at risk of not getting preventive and critical disease care, Crompton said. Chronically ill children without insurance — those kids most in need of regular checkups by a family doctor — rarely have one. Those who aren't covered are also far more likely to delay or forgo care, compared to kids on private insurance or who are covered by Medicaid or CHIP.

"As children go back to school, we encourage community organizations and schools to ensure that all eligible children are enrolled in health insurance coverage," she said.

An estimated 70,000 children in Utah are without insurance, due to loss of benefits plans at work or because the price of premiums and co-pays have become prohibitive.

A rule of thumb determines whether a child/family is eligible: If children are in Head Start or taking free school lunch they are by definition eligible for enrollment in either Medicaid or CHIP.

"As adults, there is really no excuse for not doing everything we can to make sure kids have the coverage they need," Crompton said.

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