NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - Child advocates describe it as painful. Texas ranks last in the percentage of children without health insurance, and East Texas is a region where many of those children live.
It's why the Children's Defense Fund has expanded its service to Nacogdoches and Shelby counties.
Children are often described as our nation's greatest asset, yet 682,000 uninsured children live in Texas. About 300,000 are eligible for Children's Health Insurance Program and Children's Medicaid, but are not enrolled. Health indicators in East Texas trouble advocates with the Children's Defense Fund.
"Higher levels of poverty, higher levels of juvenile diabetes, asthma, and very high levels of kids who don't have insurance," said Patrick Bresette, the executive director of the Children's Defense Fund. "Two to 10 percent more kids here don't have insurance than the state average."
The Children's Defense Fund invited key players in child advocacy to learn why this is happening. Research shows there's a lack of awareness about the two basic kinds of insurance for children.
"The Medicaid program tends to be for very low-income families, not earning very much, very close to the poverty level," Bresette said. "The CHIP program actually goes up to 200 percent of the poverty, so even families who have three kids and are earning maybe $45,000, but can't afford coverage for their kids CHIP is eligible for them."
However, there's a reluctance among parents to fill out the necessary forms. Outreach workers in three counties will help parents with the paperwork.
"It takes time and patience, a level of literacy and some self-efficacy to sit down and fill out that application and know what goes in what spot," said Joanna Bennett, a community health outreach associate.
And workers are prepared to go directly to parents.
"We tend to try to partner with schools, WIC clinics, food pantries, anywhere where low-income families in particular are being served and go to them," Bresette said.
The Episcopal Health Foundation is providing the funding to bring the Healthy Children Healthy Communities program to East Texas. It's a way to provide a voice for those still too young to