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Cover the Uninsured

State Department of Health, Memorial launch
countywide effort to “Cover the Uninsured”

A joint community-based effort to bring health insurance coverage to uninsured children and their families was recently introduced at a news conference held at Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center.

The Health Insurance Outreach and Enrollment initiative was unveiled at a gathering of concerned community, healthcare, government and religious leaders by Associate New York State Health Commissioner Sheila K. Kee.

Launched in conjunction with Cover the Uninsured Week, this innovative grassroots project will reach out to community-based groups, health and human service providers, hospitals, schools and faith-based organizations to provide education and training on how public health insurance works.  The program will link uninsured children and their families to trained experts who will provide insurance application and enrollment assistance at convenient community sites.

“Health insurance can dramatically improve health outcomes for children and can make a critical difference in their lives,” Ms. Kee said. “There are 415,000 uninsured children in New York state and three out of every four of them are eligible to receive public health insurance through the Child Health Plus or Medicaid programs.  However, a lack of information on eligibility standards and application procedures too often stands in the way of health insurance enrollment.  This program will remove those roadblocks.”

Memorial President & CEO Joseph A. Ruffolo noted that more than 21,000 Niagara County residents lack even basic health insurance coverage, a statistic with profound implications not only for the hospital’s finances – Memorial provided nearly $7 million in uncompensated care last year – but for the public’s health.

“We all know what a devastating effect the lack of regular primary and preventive medical care can have on our neighbors and their families, especially their children,” Ruffolo said.  “This collaborative program will meet people where they are at -- in churches and community centers, at block club meetings and neighborhood gatherings -- and give them the tools they need to enroll in a variety of available health insurance programs.”

Niagara County Social Services Commissioner Anthony J. Restaino said the Health Insurance Outreach and Enrollment initiative will help facilitate the provision of timely medical care to Niagara County residents.

“We endorse this program, which will remove stumbling blocks to children and families seeking and receiving primary care services for conditions such as sore throats, ear infections and asthma; and preventive care such as immunizations,” Commissioner Restaino said.

Cover the Uninsured Week, which is observed this year from April 27 to May 3, is a national effort sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to raise public awareness about the plight of the 47 million adults and children in our nation who are uninsured.

“No child in our nation should go without health insurance.  Yet, there are nine  million uninsured children in the United States, 415,000 in New York state and more than 4,000 children without insurance in Niagara County,” Ms. Kee said.  “The Western Regional Office of the New York State Department of Health and our community partners are united in our commitment to enroll every eligible uninsured child and family in health insurance programs.”

Spearheading that effort in Niagara County will be Mary Rose Gaughan, MS, RN, an
insurance enrollment specialist with the state Health Department.

“I’m looking forward to moving this important project forward and working side by side with community members across Niagara County,” Ms. Gaughan said. 

To learn more about the Health Insurance Outreach and Enrollment project, please contact Ms. Gaughan at (716) 847-4346.  To learn more about the national effort to cover the uninsured, visit 


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