Resolve to Get Insured in 2012

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Here's a resolution worth keeping: Make 2012 the year you get health insurance coverage for your children and, if you're pregnant, prenatal care for yourself, even if your funds are running low.

No child in this state needs to go without health insurance, and every pregnant woman can have the cost of prenatal care covered. How? In 1997 the federal government put in place the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Designed to provide health insurance to uninsured children in families who don't qualify for Medicaid, the program is administered by individual states and is provided at no cost to participants.

The Maryland Children's Health Insurance Program provides full health benefits for children up to age 19, and pregnant women of any age. You may apply even if you're pregnant and live with your folks—eligibility is based on your income alone. However, if a child is living with you but his parents are not, the state won't count your income toward eligibility unless you have adopted the child. So grandparents can apply for grandchildren; uncles can apply for nieces and nephews.

MCHP covers doctor visits, hospitalizations, drug treatment, prescriptions (including prenatal vitamins), mental health services, lab work and tests, after-delivery care, and family planning services. It even covers dental and vision care.

Not sure if you qualify? Apply and find out. The application is fairly short and simple. Family incomes must be below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (or 250 percent for pregnant women). The Department of Health and Human Services' 2012 federal poverty level guidelines are tied to family size. For example, the federal poverty level for a family of four is $22,350. To qualify for MHCP, family income would have to be below 200 percent of this, or less than $44,700. (Find an excellent chart detailing federal poverty level guidelines here: www.familiesusa.org/resources/tools-for-advocates/guides/federal-poverty-guidelines.html.

Applications can be mailed to you directly or picked up at local health departments, social service departments, and Women, Infant and Children centers, as well as local hospitals and schools. Completed applications are mailed to local health departments—you can also find case managers there to help with filling out the forms and to answer any questions. Of course, you can also download the applications from the MCHP website, www.dhmh.state.md.us/mma/mchp. Once accepted, expect to receive coverage information within two weeks.

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