Catastrophic Illness In Children Relief Fund Commission Announces Annual Awards For 277 Families
TRENTON, NJ - The Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund Commission (CICRFC) today announced that it has reviewed applications totaling $8.1 million in this state fiscal year, meeting its mandate to make a real difference for 277 New Jersey families struggling to pay overwhelming medical bills for their sick children.
At its annual June meeting, the Commission also acknowledged five recipient families who participated in several public information events, including the filming of a new public service announcement (PSA) and an appearance on “Prime Time Saturday ”, on WPVI-TV Channel 6, Philadelphia. “These families were outstanding in helping us spread the word about the Fund to other families in need,” said Ralph Condo, Executive Director of CICRFC.
The Commission also presented with an award of appreciation to long-time member Joan Applebaum, for her dedication to the children of New Jersey. She is leaving the Commission after 14 years of service as a public member.
Department of Human Services Deputy Commissioner Kathy Way attended the CICRFC’s annual meeting and praised the dedication of the Commission members and the tenacity of the parents who need the financial relief provided by the fund. “This fund is one of the best programs that our state offers,” said Way. “I’m heartened to see that the Fund provides hope for so many New Jersey families with nowhere else to turn, and that it does what it was intended to do! It also exemplifies the partnership between New Jersey citizens, the business community and state government.”
Jane Lorber, chairperson and public member, noted that since 1989, the Commission has approved grants totaling $93 million for more than 3,800 families. The families have their own unique stories to tell but in many ways are not unlike most New Jersey families who work hard and pay their bills. “But when faced with the daunting challenge of caring for a sick child and dealing with mounting medical bills, daily life can begin to feel overwhelming,” Lorber said.
Some of the families who have benefited from the fund, and now serve as volunteers on the Commission’s Family Advisory Committee, also attended the meeting. “I would like to personally thank those families here today who continue to extend themselves despite their own difficult circumstances. Your efforts to assist other families have helped make the program so successful and so rewarding,” said Commission vice-chairperson, William Ditto.
According to Condo, families of any income may qualify for financial help if a child’s unreimbursed medical and related expenses exceed 10 percent of the family’s annual income up to $100,000, plus 15 percent of any income over $100,000.
The Fund does not restrict coverage to a specific diagnosis or disease and covers hospital and physician bills, medications, disposable medical goods and medical equipment, as well as home care and medically related transportation.
Children 21 years or younger are eligible, 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. The Fund is collected from an annual surcharge on employers of $1 per employee.
“We define catastrophic in terms of the economic impact a child’s illness has on the family,” Condo said. “A family may have health insurance but coverage can be inadequate when a child has a serious, expensive illness or injury. With the help of the fund, families can avoid a financial crisis and return to the routine responsibilities of their lives.”
While legislation creating the fund protects the anonymity of families who have received grant awards, several of the families came to share their experience as a way of encouraging other families in need to apply for assistance. (See attached family profiles.)
For more information on the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund, call Ralph J. Condo, Executive Director, at 609-292-0600 or the Family Information Line, 1-800-335-FUND.
Barbara Werner of Brigantine, Atlantic County, was faced with multiple out of pocket expenses for her son Craige (now age 20), who has a neuromuscular disorder. Although insured, the types of non- traditional items her son required were not covered benefits. Craige uses a wheelchair for mobility and required several home modifications as well as a specialized vehicle for his transportation. Mrs. Werner has utilized the Fund for multiple years of assistance and most recently received over $23,000 for new modification to a van and other out of pocket costs.
Donald and Mary DeSorte of Atco, Camden County, were insured when their son Rocco, (now 3 years old) was born with a chromosomal abnormality resulting in multiple complications. After surgery, many doctor visits and several tests, the family was left with significant out of pocket expenses following insurance payment. CICRF granted an award of $4900 to reimburse these uncovered expenses.
Peter and Carrie Foley of Farmingdale, Monmouth County were insured when their son Nicholas, (now 2 ½) was born with multiple problems including a cleft lip and palate, as well as cardiac and respiratory problems. His multiple surgeries and hospital stays resulted in over $400,000 in uncovered medical bills, which were paid by the Fund for the year 2002. When the family learned that they could reapply annually, they subsequently reapplied for another year and received over $32,000 for uncovered medical expenses.
Raymond and Lisa Morin of Hazlet, Monmouth County were insured when their daughter Olivia (now 2 ½ years) required specialized orthopedic care for her hands and feet. Due to her condition, she required surgery and casting of her legs and feet, as well as customized braces and splints for her hands. The family discovered that their union plan would not cover treatment related to a congenital anomaly and were left with over $8,000 in uncovered medical expenses. CICRF relieved them of this debt, enabling them to resume normal family life.
Luis and Cindy Rodriguez of Trenton, Mercer County, were temporarily uninsured when their son Luis (now 8 years old) required a brief hospitalization for treatment of an intestinal infection. Although he recovered quickly, the family was left with significant bills for his hospital stay and for physician services. The Fund paid over $8,000 to relieve them of their medical debt.
Nancy Quezada of Hamilton, Mercer County was uninsured when her son Jorge (now 15 years old) became ill and required emergency treatment and surgery for a neurological condition. Jorge’s prolonged hospitalization and treatment from several specialists resulted in uncovered medical bills exceeding $72,000. The family did not qualify for Medicaid due to residency. The Fund was able to pay these bills for the family.
Virgin Velazquez and Rafael Suarez of Perth Amboy, Middlesex County knew they had to purchase a specialized van to transport their son Johnny Feliciano, 19, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair. CICRF helped them with an award of over $21,000 to help offset the cost of the modified van they purchased.
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