PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayor Jorge O. Elorza and U.S. Senator Jack Reed were joined today by Merrill Thomas, CEO of the Providence Community Health Centers, and Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT, to discuss the importance of enrolling eligible children and families in RIte Care, the state's Medicaid managed care plan which provides access to a large network of doctors, specialists, hospitals, and other health care providers.
"Today we are sending a message to parents, grandparents and guardians throughout Providence and Rhode Island: If you or your children do not have health insurance, or you lost your coverage for any reason, we want to help," said Mayor Elorza. "More than 40,000 Providence residents are covered under RIte care and more than 28,000 of them are children. We know that this program works and that there are still more children and families that can benefit from the coverage that it provides."
"I thank Senator Reed and the RI Congressional delegation for their successful efforts to extend CHIP in Washington," continued Mayor Elorza.
Last week, Congress passed a bipartisan bill to extend funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP), as well as for community health centers. This is great news for thousands of children in low and moderate-income households in Rhode Island who will have health coverage through RIte Care as a result.
"The Children's Health Insurance Program and community health centers save billions in national health care spending by helping patients avoid costly emergency room visits and making better use of preventive services," said Senator Reed, who helped craft the original program in 1997 and has since worked to expand its reach and boost Rhode Island's annual allotment in federal aid from the program. "We want to ensure busy parents have the facts about RIte Care and the opportunity to enroll if they are eligible for health savings under the program. I know kids -and adults for that matter- don't like to get shots. But it's important to give every family a shot at affordable health coverage. I appreciate Mayor Elorza, RI Kids Count, and other children's health advocates working together to raise awareness and help families enroll."
About 70 percent of children in Providence are already covered by the state's health insurance program for low-to-moderate income families, but as many as 2,000 children in Providence, and thousands more throughout the state, remain without health insurance coverage.
Many busy parents may not realize that they are eligible for free or low-cost health insurance for their kids and teens - all the way up to age 19. Families of four making up to $59,000 may be eligible to get their kids regular check-ups, doctor and dentist visits, vaccinations, prescriptions, and more through RIte Care.
"On behalf of The Providence Community Health Centers, (PCHC) and our 50,000 patients, I want to thank Senator Reed and our entire congressional delegation for making sure this funding remained in place. I cannot emphasize how important this legislation is and continues to be to us and our patients," said Merrill Thomas, CEO of the Providence Community Health Center. "We are very happy to work with Mayor Elorza and the city on getting all of our eligible children enrolled into the programs they are eligible for. We want to work through any barriers that exist to let parents know that we can help them obtain health insurance for their children."
"Today we celebrate the very good news that thousands of Rhode Island's children, and millions of children across the nation will be able to continue to benefit from the Children's Health Insurance Program -- which is the centerpiece of funding for Rhode Island's Rite Care program here in Rhode Island. RIte Care has resulted in improved children's health outcomes which are critical for children in order for them to achieve educational success and reach their full potential," said Elizabeth Burke Bryant, Executive Director of Rhode Island KIDS COUNT.
Providence residents seeking to enroll or find more information on RIit Care can visit the Providence Community Health Centers at 444-0400. For other enrollment locations or for non-Providence residents the United Way's 2-1-1 line will offer assistance.