The state Department of Social and Health Services estimates that 10,000 children who are eligible for health insurance through Washington Children’s Health Insurance Program or the Apple Health for Kids program are without coverage in Pierce County.
The reasons behind the high number of uninsured are unclear, said Rudy Vasquez, multicultural services director for Sea Mar Community Health Centers.
“We aren’t certain whether people don’t have information, access to it, or they are apprehensive about the process,” Vasquez said. “We want to remove the barriers that prevent families from obtaining insurance for their children.”
In an attempt to make insurance enrollment more accessible, a group of agencies formed a collaborative partnership to sponsor Carousel Enrollment Fairs that will run through May to be held at multiple sites in Pierce County.
Puyallup will host a fair from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Feb. 23 at Bethany Baptist Church, 713 South Hill Park Drive.
The fairs are designed to be free events with activities that will attract children, Vasquez said. There will be giveaways and a chance to win a Nintendo Wii.
Parents can learn about medical and dental insurance for children from birth to 19, available community resources, and be screened to determine insurance eligibility. If they’re ready, they can enroll on site. Multi-lingual staff will be available.
Among the collaborating agencies are the Washington State Coalition for Healthy Communities of Color, DSHS, Sea Mar Community Health Centers, Community Health Care Tacoma, Comprehensive Health Education Foundation, Amerigroup, Community Health Plan of Washington, Coordinated Care, Molina Healthcare, United Healthcare, WithinReach, Mercy Housing and WIC (nutrition program for women, infants and children).
The state’s five Medicaid health plan providers and other agencies will participate.
“All of the entities involved serve Medicaid recipients,” said Sally Mildren, director of marketing and community outreach, coordinated care. “We are driven by a passion to see children get what they need. Every child should have health insurance.”
“If parents cannot attend the fair in Puyallup, they may participate in any of the other fairs,” Vasquez said.
Between events, parents may go to any Sea Mar Clinic in Puyallup or Tacoma to obtain more information, Vasquez said.
• Feb. 9, Fife High School
• March 9, Frontier Parks Facility, Graham
• March 23, Spanaway Middle School
• April 6, Lakewood Boys & Girls Club
• April 27, Henry T. Schatz Boys & Girls Club, South Tacoma
• May 11, Cheney Family Boys & Girls Club, Gig Harbor
All fairs are scheduled from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.Linda Henry is a freelance reporter for the Herald.