Thursday, July 31, 2008

CoverKids expands to include dental benefits

By WOODY BAIRD • Associated Press • July 31, 2008 MEMPHIS — Jackie Liggins faced what appeared to be an impassable barrier to finding medical insurance so her 3-year-old son could get physical therapy for an arm nearly paralyzed by nerve damage. "Everybody turned us down," Liggins said. "We were getting comments like, 'As soon as he no longer requires therapy, we'll be happy to cover you.' " But Liggins found help through CoverKids, a state program that began earlier this year to supply medical coverage for children whose families can't afford insurance or are denied coverage for other reasons. Now those families have more help available: Gov. Phil Bredesen announced Wednesday that CoverKids will also cover dental services ranging from emergencies to routine cleanings. Liggins and her son Daniel, now 4, were at Gov. Phil Bredesen's side as he made the announcement. Bredesen also announced a statewide effort to recruit thousands of children who need insurance. "We've tried to make signing up as easy as it can possibly be," Bredesen said at Le Bonheur Children's Medical Center. "If you can check out a library book, you can sign your children up for CoverKids." Routine care is a priority CoverKids began last year for children from families who can't afford private health insurance or obtain it for other reasons. So far, just less than 25,000 children are on the CoverKids rolls, though there is room under current funding for 40,000. An important part of the program, which requires modest co-pays for services, is covering routine doctor's visits and preventive health care. Coverage for eye exams and glasses also was added early this year. "CoverKids is about going beyond just treating illnesses," Bredesen said. "It's about keeping kids healthy." Bredesen also said the state is increasing efforts to get parents to sign up for the program — even if it means increasing funding. If enrollment outstrips current funding, "I'll take care of that," he said. Families can now sign up their children online at, and public schools across Tennessee will be passing out CoverKids fliers for youngsters to take home. Young Daniel Liggins and his parents will be featured in TV ads that the state will be running soon to promote Cover Kids. Wearing a red trimmed baseball uniform and a red cap, Daniel stood beside Bredesen as the governor wrapped up his announcement. With therapy provided through CoverKids, Daniel has gained almost full use of his damaged left arm. "As you can probably tell, he loves to play baseball," the governor said. "I've seen video of him swinging a bat, and I can assure you he's going to be a great baseball player."

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