Foundation Eyes Health-care Help For Children Of Ex-nursing Home Staff

Posted: May 09, 1994

Former city employees who lost health insurance for their children when the Rendell administration privatized the Philadelphia Nursing Home may soon get help from a program that provides insurance for the working poor.

The Caring Foundation, which runs state and privately funded programs to provide childrens health insurance, set up an information booth at the nursing home Friday and handed out applications to 32 working parents.

"This could help a lot of people," said Barbara Burrus, 40, a nursing aide, who hopes to get insurance for her 14 year-old daughter.

Like many women, Burrus had a complete family benefit package as a city employee, until the city signed a contract with Episcopal Long Term Care to operate the nursing home.

The Rendell administration found city jobs for more than 180 nursing home workers, but about 100, mostly nurses and health care aides, went to work for Episcopal and lost family health coverage.

Bill Hagget, president of the Caring Foundation, said he contacted Episcopal after reading a story in the Daily News about the plight of single mothers at the nursing home who were without health insurance for their kids.

"I sat here in my office and said, 'these are the kids who are our target,' " Haggart said. "Our sole purpose is to provide kids with free health-care coverage."

The Caring Foundation is a non-profit corporation affiliated with Blue Cross and Blue Shield. With U.S. Healthcare, it administers a state-funded program to provide insurance for children, and a similar program that is privately financed by the insurance companies and other donors.

The programs provide free insurance to children whose parents don't qualify for Medicaid but who earn to little to afford private insurance.

Income guidelines vary depending on the children's ages and family size, but the program generally insures kids whose families earn less than $30,000 a year.

Joyce Scott of the Caring Foundation said it appeared that all of the 32 parents who picked up applications at the nursing home on Friday would qualify for the health insurance.

Workers who were laid off by the city in the privatization move have a year's "recall rights" to claim a city job if one becomes available.

David L. Cohen, Mayor Rendell's chief of staff, said the city is unlikely to place all nursing home workers in their old job classifications, since there are relatively few city health-care positions.

But Cohen said the personnel department is working to find positions that match the skills of those who want to come back to the city.

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