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Group works to provide healthcare to children - KOAM TV 7

Group works to provide healthcare to children in Northeast Oklahoma

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The Northeastern Tribal Health System is continuing its campaign to get as many uninsured Native American children signed up for Medicare or Medicaid programs due to the statistics of healthcare.

The Health System is in its final months of a grant program to conduct an outreach campaign to get Native American children signed up.

That campaign, paid for by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid service has helped get 858 children certified or re-certified for those programs.

"Under the current Affordable Care Act Legislation, Native Americans are exempt from having to carry health insurance because they can access services through Indian Health Service," says Jennifer Wofford, Patient Benefits Coordinator for NTHS.

Wofford says uninsured children are five times more likely to have unmet needs for healthcare and more than three times more likely to not get needed prescription drugs.  She says one in three children are uninsured and those numbers are higher for Native American children.

"That number is a little higher within the Native American community because they have been able to access care through Indian Health or tribal facilities, but, Indian Health and tribal facilities are not a complete encompassing program," says Wofford.  "There are limits to the medical care that you can receive at those facilities."

That is why NTHS began its campaign in 2009 to get uninsured Native American children enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid programs.

NTHS operates as a one-stop shop clinic providing pediatrics, dental, optical and pharmaceutical care.

"They've helped out stuff that I can't afford to do," says Victoria McLaughlin, a mother of children who are benefiting from being signed up.

McLaughlin says the clinic was able to ease the fear of a lapse in coverage after moving from Missouri back to Oklahoma.

"It's helped dentistry, my son needed work on his teeth and it's helped through his dental," says McLaughlin.

NTHS Health Program Director Sharon Dawes says some families are too proud to ask for assistance.  She says sometimes there's a stigma attached to getting help.

"What we're trying to do is take that stigma away and let them know it's more important that their children receive services to be healthy," says Dawes.

Dawes says the health system is also able to provide contract health which helps get patients outside specialty care.

This campaign ends next March and NTHS officials are not sure if another grant will be available.  They say they will continue outreach programs in schools to reach as many Native American children as possible.

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