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Monday, April 10, 2000

HOPE survey hunts
children who lack
health insurance

Volunteers will cover Waianae,
Kalihi-Palama and Waipahu
on Saturday

By Helen Altonn


HOPE Worldwide Hawaii has joined other nonprofit groups and state agencies in an accelerated effort to reduce the number of the state's estimated 31,000 medically uninsured children.

The organization's program, HOPE for Kids Hawaii, expects to have 500 to 600 volunteers going door to door Saturday to identify uninsured children in three Oahu areas -- Kalihi-Palama, Waianae and Waipahu.

Survey forms will be filled out and given to the Hawaii State Primary Care Association, which is trying to find children eligible for Medicaid and QUEST medical programs, said Jim Santucci, volunteer program director for HOPE Worldwide Hawaii.

The HOPE for Kids project is part of a HOPE Worldwide global outreach day focused on health, education, development and care for women, children and the elderly, Santucci said.

Volunteers, mostly from the Oahu Church of Christ, will rally 9 a.m. Saturday at Pearl City High School cafeteria and begin canvassing at 10 a.m., he said. They'll wear T-shirts with "HOPE Worldwide" and "HOPE for Kids" logos.

HOPE Worldwide, based in Philadelphia, is funding the project with donations from Kmart Stores and Delta Airlines, Santucci said. The Oahu Church of Christ is providing support, he said.

It is the latest in a number of programs zeroing in on Hawaii's uninsured children.

The Hawaii Medical Service Association's new Children's Plan began April 1, with 200 signed up for benefits.

HMSA received 1,000 applications after starting the plan -- aimed at families who can't qualify for the state's QUEST health care plan and who don't have employer-based health plans. The cost is $58.50 per child per month.

In evaluating applications, HMSA spokesman Chuck Marshall said HMSA's plan is to help those "falling through the cracks."

The Hawaii State Primary Care Association has a $1 million Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant to seek children eligible for state and federally funded medical programs. The project is called "Covering Kids."

"When we find uninsured kids, we also find uninsured parents," said Beth Giesting, the association's executive director.

The state Department of Human Services and the association also are looking for youngsters who may be eligible for the federal Children's Health Insurance Program, expected to begin July 1.

CHIP will cover uninsured children with income below 200 percent of poverty, compared with the state QUEST program's limit of up to 100 percent of poverty.

The Human Services Department estimates 4,000 to 5,000 children may be eligible statewide for CHIP, while others think there are as many as 8,000.

Money from the state's tobacco settlement is available for the program -- up to $1.4 million this fiscal year and $3.8 million next year, said Kate Stanley, the department's deputy director.

Matching money is needed to draw up to $8.9 million allocated in federal funds for CHIP.

"Boost 4 Kids" is also helping, working to identify eligible children through the school lunch program.

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