By Pat Loeb
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In the effort to get health insurance for all children in Pennsylvania, one group has been left behind: children who entered the country illegally with their parents.
Now, a new effort is getting underway to get those children health care coverage.
One 14-year-old (whom we’ll call Kate) is basically healthy. Which is lucky, because she was brought to the United States as a baby without documents, and thus is ineligible for any kind of subsidized health insurance: Affordable Care, Medicaid, or Pennsylvania’s CHIP program.
It’s a little-known gap in these programs that Colleen McCauley, of Public Citizens for Children and Youth, says creates both health and financial problems.
“Small problems, like pain in the tooth, can escalate to an abscess that can require families to go to the emergency room. And that is expensive, costly care,” she notes.
For Kate, it was the kind of complaint that even healthy teenagers occasionally have: “I had a stomach ache, but it was very severe.”
And like most uninsured, her father says he sought treatment for her at an ER.
“And right now I have a bill that’s so high and we don’t have money to pay it, and I don’t know what we’ll have to do,” he said in halting English.
Such stories are the reason that a group of child and health advocates are about to launch an effort they’re calling “Dream Health,” to get undocumented kids included in CHIP, the Pennsylvania health insurance program for children.