Thursday, October 25, 2007
What is going to happen to CHIP?

By Anthony Policastro, M.D

There is currently a debate at the Federal level. It involves a children's health insurance program. The name of the program is CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program). This is not a new program. It has been around for several years. Delaware has managed a very good CHIP program. Currently families that earn less than the poverty level have Medicaid health insurance coverage for their children. The poverty level varies by family size but is less than $20,000 per year for a family of 4. Many families earn above that level. However, they do not have health insurance as part of their jobs. Therefore, the CHIP program was created for that group. CHIP provides health insurance to children whose families earn between 100% and 200% of the poverty level. That means that for a family of four the income is between $20,000 and $40,000. This program has been in place for a number of years. It has provided health insurance to a lot of children who would have had none. Recently, Congress decided to increase the eligibility level to more than 200% of poverty. That would increase the number of children eligible to receive a government sponsored health insurance plan. President Bush vetoed the bill. Congress wanted to override the veto but it would take a lot of votes to do so. When looking at the arguments about this, there are two sides to the story. That is not unusual. Depending upon how you present facts, you can always make your side of the story make sense. The television show "60 Minutes" is very good at that. They decide ahead of time what they want you to think. Then they present the information in such a way that you have to agree with their way of thinking. They previously did medical topics or military topics that I knew a lot about. Their presentation was so one sided that it made it clear that the objective was to not present the topic fairly. The same kind of thing is now happening with the children's health bill. Congress is indicating that it can provide coverage to an additional 10 million children. President Bush is indicating that this should be done by the private sector and not by the government. Each side has very logical arguments to support their position. However, the CHIP program has been around for years. The private sector has not taken care of getting these children insured. It is not clear what is going to change that will make that happen now. The one thing that will change is that President Bush will not be around in 15 more months. That gives him 15 months to get the private sector to do what he says they will do. If he succeeds then it makes sense to not pass the bill. If he fails as he has done to this point, then it will likely make sense to spend the money on our children and get them the health care they deserve.

Operation Warm helps needy kids
Approximately 5,000 needy Sussex County children will have an easier time enduring the cold Delaware winter thanks to the efforts of the non-profit group "Operation Warm". The organization began in 1998 with a single act of kindness by entrepreneur Dick Sanford. A story in a Kennett Square, Pa. area newspaper about local children who were forced to wait in the cold at their bus stop because their families could not afford coats spurred Mr. Sanford to action. Purchasing the entire inventory of children's coats from a nearby department store, he donated the coats to the needy children. Today "Operation Warm" operates in eight different cities and regions across the country including Pennsylvania, Delaware, Boston, Chicago, New York City, Seattle and Atlanta. According to Traci Manza Murphy, the group's vice-president of development, Operation Warm will distribute 126,000 coats nationwide this year - approximately 20,000 to Delaware children alone. Using a somewhat unusual model, Operation Warm raises money and then contracts with an overseas manufacturer to make coats to the group's specifications.

"When Operation Warm was born, we bought coats off-the-rack, we bought second-hand coats and we bought close-outs," Murphy said. But that model created problems because the quality of the coats was inconsistent and it was impossible to predict how many coats could be secured in any given year. "By ordering them ourselves we know exactly how many coats we'll get and, hopefully, when we'll get them." "I first learned about this group when Kim Fremont Fortunato (Operation Warm's president) appeared before the Joint Finance Committee to make a presentation," said State Rep. Joe Booth (R-Georgetown). "We discussed their mission and I was really impressed with their aggressiveness and creativity." Ninety percent of the money Operation Warm receives goes directly to manufacturing coats, which currently cost the group about $15 per unit to produce. "If you purchased these coats in a store, you'd pay $40 apiece or more," Mrs. Manza Murphy said. Corporate sponsors provide about a third of the Operation Warm's funding, with another third coming from private donations and the remainder from government and foundations. The coats are made in different sizes and colors for children between the ages of one and 12. Nothing about the coats identifies them as having come from Operation Warm. In fact, pseudo manufacturer labels are sewn into the garments to avoid any stigma the recipients might be subject to. Rep. Booth, along with Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf (D-Rehoboth), took part in loading vehicles as the coats were recently distributed from a temporary depot in the La Iglesia del Dios de la Profecia on Zoar Rd. near Georgetown. Operation Warm hopes to nearly double the number of coats they make and distribute nationally next year to 250,000. For more information, visit

Tanger helps fight breast cancer
The Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition (DBCC) drove their mobile mammography van to Tanger Midway recently to take a stand against breast cancer. The DBCC and Tanger are selling 25% Pink Cards for a $1 donation each, which gives shoppers a 25% discount at participating outlet stores. The Pink Cards are being sold directly by the DBCC, and are also available at the Tanger Customer Service Centers, and online at Proceeds from the sale of the cards directly benefit the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition. To date, the DBCC and Tanger have raised over $30,000 from Pink Card sales. The DBCC's mammography van goes into Delaware's rural communities to help promote early detection and education about the disease. Steering the day's efforts was Marquitta Person, mobile van driver for the DBCC. Person provides tours of her van to interested women and men who pass, and encourages them to learn the facts. Tanger will also donate 10% of the value of all Tanger gift cards purchased until Oct. 20, to the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition. Tanger gift cards can be purchased at Tanger Customer Service Centers or at

Stroke support group
Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer free monthly Stroke Support Group meetings designed for individuals who have survived a stroke and their families and caregivers. Meetings are held the third Thursday of each month at Nanticoke Cancer Care Center, from 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. The meetings will consist of guest speakers and breakaway sessions, in which caregivers and survivors will meet in two groups to discuss concerns, provide support and networking. Refreshments will be provided. Sheila Brant and Joan Burditt, occupational therapists at Nanticoke Memorial Hospital, will facilitate the support group meetings. Pre-registration is not required. For more information, call 629-6611, ext. 5121.

Nanticoke offers flu shots
It's time to get a flu shot. Influenza is a serious disease that affects many people, including the elderly and those with serious, long-term health problems. Nanticoke Occupational Health will be offering flue shots to the public on Oct. 26 at the Nanticoke Mears Health Campus (across from the Seaford Post Office). The cost of the vaccination is $10. The vaccine is not recommended for anyone under the age of 18. Pre-scheduled appointments are required. The influenza vaccine is recommended for elderly and high-risk individuals. The duration of protection conferred by influenza vaccine generally begins one to two weeks after injection and may last six months or longer. For more information contact Nanticoke Occupational Health at 629-6611, ext. 2505.