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For immediate release

Contact: Shelli Quenga (843) 266-5685

Free Medicaid Application Assistance Offered
to SC Families in 170 Languages

As a parent, you do everything you can to keep your kids safe, but your baby gets an ear infection and your son sprained his ankle at soccer practice. And you can’t afford the insurance offered by your employer. You’re not alone. More than 110,000 South Carolina children are eligible, but not enrolled in the state’s free health insurance programs, according to the non-profit Palmetto Project. Many families may not think their children are eligible because they own a home, cars, and work a full-time job. Not true.

You would probably be surprised at the income levels. Children in a family of four with an annual income of $44,100 could be eligible for Medicaid. The process for applying for Medicaid in South Carolina can be complicated, and used to require a trip to the county health and human services office. “We’ve changed that,” said Shelli Quenga, director of the Palmetto Project’s children’s health initiative program. Funded by a federal grant, the children’s health initiative is a statewide campaign to enroll all the state’s eligible children in Medicaid. Initiative staff and certified volunteers can work with families to complete initial and renewal applications. Because of a partnership with South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, initiative staff and volunteers are able to certify citizenship and identity documents for applicants, and assist families at times and locations that are convenient for the family. As an added service, families can choose to have initiative staff track the progress of the application, and assist with an appeal when an application is denied. Quenga reported that 79% of applicants who requested follow-up advocacy through the children’s health initiative were approved.

Parents may be overwhelmed by the six-page application and bewildered by the documentation requirements. Although the application is available in both English and Spanish, the two applications are not the same. The Spanish application is several versions older than the English application and requires that the applicant provide detailed information about financial assets. Due to this complexity, some families have sought assistance – but often at a high cost. Families have reported paying as much as $60 to an individual to help them complete the application, and an additional $35 to notarize documents. “This is such a travesty,” said Quenga. “There is no charge for our assistance, we are in every county in South Carolina, and we have access to interpreters in 170 languages, including Mixteco.” Quenga also stated that families should never pay someone to notarize citizenship, identity, or income information for Medicaid applications. “It’s simply unnecessary,” she said. SCDHHS does not require that any of these documents be notarized. Families must provide proof of the child’s U.S. citizenship and identity, along with proof of all income for at least the last four weeks.

South Carolina Healthy Connections, or Medicaid, covers urgent health needs like accidents and sudden illness. But it also covers regular check-ups, dental care, prescription medication, immunizations, and vision care. It’s also important to renew your child’s Medicaid coverage each year. For free assistance anywhere in South Carolina, families can call toll-free 1-888-998-4646 or visit www.ChildrensHealthSC.org.

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