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|LaChip's success celebrated in Monroe|
Taryn Eldridge never imagined she would need assistance from the state for anything, especially insurance for her children.
She was married and recently graduated from Mississippi State University with an accounting degree.
That's about the time life changed completely for Eldridge and her young son, Reese.
Eldridge divorced from her husband and moved from Mississippi to Monroe to be near her parents.
"Circumstances change and not everything stays the same," Eldridge said. "My curveball was a divorce."
When she returned to Louisiana, Eldridge signed up with LaCHIP, the Louisiana Children's Health and Insurance Program, which provides healthcare for uninsured children.
"We had that through May, and then it was going to end," Eldridge said. "I really didn't know what I was going to do. I got a job with a car dealership and I was starting to stress, wondering what I would do if Reese got sick."
She soon learned about LaCHIP's "affordable plan," a new health insurance program for uninsured children in moderate income families. The program is for families whose make too much money for regular LaCHIP, but whose gross income is below 250 percent of the federal poverty level. The regular LaCHIP only covers uninsured children in families with countable income up to 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
Eldridge was one of the first in the state to sign up for the new program.
"I am so excited to hear that my baby is going to have insurance, and I won't have to worry when he gets sick about having to pay for it," Eldridge said Thursday during a LaCHIP news conference that featured Gov. Bobby Jindal as guest speaker.
Jindal said a top priority for his administration will focus on providing healthcare for children and meeting their healthcare needs.
Since January, more than 11,000 families have signed up for health insurance for their children through LaCHIP or Medicaid.
The total number of children in Louisiana with access to healthcare through LaCHIP or Medicaid is now 646,000.
"Those children now don't have to go to emergency rooms, or skip their medications when they get sick," Jindal said. "Those worried parents in the middle of the night don't have to worry about if they can afford to take their sons or daughters to the doctor."
"You never think it will happen to you," Jindal continued. "You never think it will be your child who will get sick and might need help. You don't think that maybe you might lose your job or something might happen where maybe you might not be able to afford coverage for your child."
Louisiana now ranks 22nd in the country in providing health insurance for children.
"That's not the top of the list, and it's not where we want to be, but it is a lot better than where we were at several years ago," Jindal said.
Some 10 years ago, Jindal said, about 25 percent of children in the state lacked health insurance. That meant one out of four children in the state lacked insurance.
Today, just five percent of the state's children are uninsured.
"We've made great strides, but we can do better," Jindal said.
Jindal encouraged more families to find out if they qualify for LaCHIP's services.
"This is a great new plan," he said. "It made no sense that the state was giving away free healthcare to all these families and children, yet it was doing nothing to help families who were trying to get back to work and help themselves.
"That's ridiculous. We need to help those who are trying to help themselves. The new LaCHIP affordable healthcare plan does exactly that."
Jindal has proposed that funding next year be appropriated to provide the new service to 28,500 children.