Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund Grants Financial Awards for Families with Sick Children
Trenton – The holiday season will bring an extra measure of hope and good will this year for some New Jersey families, thanks to the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund which provides financial assistance for the uncovered medical bills related to their child’s illness.
In a State House ceremony today, Acting Governor Richard J. Codey announced the most recent financial grant awards approved by the Commission. which oversees the Fund. “The Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund provides New Jersey families with needed financial support,” he said. “The program makes it possible for families to focus upon the needs of their children without worrying about their ability to pay for necessary medical care.”
In the first six months of this fiscal year, the Commission has approved awards to date exceeding $3.5 million to help 173 eligible families pay the uncovered expenses associated with their child’s illness. This represents an increase in the number of families served of almost 9% over the number served during the same time period last year. “The fund is available when a child becomes ill and the cost of the medical care is catastrophic for that family. We are proud that this fund is available to help New Jersey families,” said Human Services Commissioner, James Davy.”
Since 1989, the Fund has approved awards exceeding $93 million to over 3800 New Jersey families. Families in every county in New Jersey have been assisted with extraordinary medical debts.
“The fund serves as a safety net for families, said Ms .Jane Lorber, Chairperson of the Commission. “The relief found in the financial benefit of the fund allows families to maintain their family life while dealing with the caring for a sick child and coping with mounting medical bills.”
Families of any income may qualify, and the fund does not limit coverage to specific diseases or diagnoses. Eligible medical and related expenses are those not fully covered by insurance, state or federal programs and include hospital and physician bills, medications, medical equipment, psychiatric care, home health care, and specialized home and vehicle modifications.
“We define catastrophic in terms of the economic impact the child’s illness has on the family. We look at how high the uncovered medical expenses are compared with the family income,” said Ralph J. Condo, Executive Director of the Fund. “A family may have health insurance but coverage often is inadequate and mounting bills can quickly become catastrophic for a family. “
Most of the families helped by the fund have been working parents with health insurance, but their out-of-pocket expenses were still greater than 10 percent of their income. “With the help of the fund, families can weather a financial crisis and return to the routine responsibilities of their lives.”
The fund is collected from an annual surcharge of $1 per employee levied on all employers who are subject to the New Jersey Unemployment Compensation Law.
A family may qualify for the fund’s help if a child’s unreimbursed medical and related expenses exceed 10 percent of the family’s income up to $100,000 plus 15 percent of any excess income over $100,000. The child must have been 21 years or younger when the medical expenses were incurred and families must be state residents. Expenses must have been incurred during a previous 12-month period, and expenses dating back to January 1988 will be considered.
While legislation creating the fund protects the anonymity of families applying for help, several families who have received grant awards from the fund were willing to share their experience and attend today’s ceremony. Darnell and Evelyn Hannah of Neptune, Monmouth County knew they would be faced with home modifications when they adopted their twin daughters Passion and Porsche in March of 2002. Passion, now eight years old, has cerebral palsy as well as developmental delays. She requires assistance with all activities of daily living and uses a wheelchair for mobility. Although insured by Medicaid, the family realized that this type of non-traditional out of pocket expense could be considered by the Fund. In their most recent application, the family converted a downstairs room into an accessible bedroom with specialized bathroom to facilitate access and ease of care. They received an award of $25,000 for this much needed renovation. The previous year’s application for the cost of a specialized modified vehicle resulted in an award of over $37,000 toward that uncovered expense.
Keith and Jennifer Brown of Wall, Monmouth County purchased health insurance through COBRA for a short time, prior to Keith getting a new job, which now provides their family coverage. Their daughter Fiona, now 6 years old, was born with a rare heart condition. She had major cardiac defects, an immune system dysfunction as well as seizures and developmental delays. Although they were insured, they had many out of pocket expenses for co-payments, deductibles, uncovered expenses and travel. The family applied for 3 consecutive years of uncovered medical expenses (2001-2003) and was approved for each year for a total of over $21,000. They are grateful to know that they can reapply to the Fund every year for assistance with Fiona’s uncovered medical expenses.
Raymond and Michele Murphy of Mercerville, Mercer County were insured when their daughter Colleen, now age 6, was diagnosed with Leukemia. After beginning aggressive chemotherapy and medical treatment, they later discovered that some of the physicians treating their daughter were not in their insurance network. This expense, coupled with out of pocket pharmacy and uncovered hospital bills became a financial burden to the family. They applied to the Fund and were awarded over $13,000 to relieve them of this debt.
Michael and Arlene Nanni of Waterford, Camden County purchased a specialized, modified van for their son Michael, Jr. who is 9 years old. Michael has a seizure disorder as well as developmental delays and uses a wheel chair for mobility. Although insured, the family still had significant out of pocket expenses for pharmacy and disposable medical supplies needed for Michael’s care. The Commission approved an award of over $38,000 to help defray these uncovered expenses.
Carl and Nicole Knop of Brick, Ocean County had health insurance when their daughter Alyssa, now 2 ½, required two surgeries to correct a cleft lip and palate. They did not expect to be left with so large a financial responsibility after insurance settled. Although they managed to make partial payments to many of the providers, they were still left with significant uncovered expenses for hospital and doctors services. After applying to the Fund, they received an award of over $12,000, which not only pays off the outstanding balances, but also reimburses them for most of their out of pocket costs as well.