112th Year, 43rd Issue Thursday, June 7, 2001 Sparta, North Carolina

Families on tight budgets concerned about cuts

By ROBBY LUCKE
Staff

Editor's note: This story is the second in a series on how the state budget crunch may affect local agencies and those they serve.

Some struggling families on tight budgets are especially feeling the squeeze when it comes to finding affordable health coverage for their children.

N.C. Health Choice for Children was set up in 1998 to help such families — those earning incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford private insurance. Using a combination of federal and state funds, Health Choice covers children whose families make between 100 and 200 percent of the poverty level. Poverty level is $17,652 per year for a family of four.

But unlike Medicaid—which is an open-ended, entitlement program—Health Choice is a capped program, meaning it insures children only as long as funds are available. Thus the program's enrollment has been frozen since the first of this year. And with the state looking for ways to trim its budget, Health Choice may not re-open enrollment anytime soon.

"The program is being held up in Raleigh," said Sandra Ashley, director of the Alleghany County Department of Social Services. "There are hints it's not going to open up in July."
 
 

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