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 PITTSBURGH, Jan. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- Over 4,000 western Pennsylvania children who have not had health care coverage can now look forward to a healthier new year thanks to a gift from Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania (BCWP) and Pennsylvania Blue Shield (PBS).
 The Western Pennsylvania Caring Foundation, a charitable foundation, announced today that BCWP and PBS donated $2.4 million to provide primary health coverage beginning this month to 4,347 additional children in the region through The Caring Program for Children, which provides health coverage to children at no cost to their families.
 The announcement was made today by Eugene J. Barone, BCWP's chairman and CEO.
 The contribution from Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania Blue Shield eliminates the Caring Program's seven-month waiting list and brings the current number of participants to more than 7,500.
 "The Caring Program was created to respond to the urgent need of providing quality health care coverage to our children, especially those from low-income families," Barone said. "We're pleased that this additional contribution from Blue Cross and Blue Shield will enable these children to get the care they need and deserve this year."
 The Caring Program was originally created in western Pennsylvania to provide a safety net for families left without health benefits from the collapse of the local steel industry. Since its inception in 1985, the program has provided coverage to more than 26,000 children in western Pennsylvania.
 "We're proud to say that the Caring Program for Children has had a very positive impact not only in western Pennsylvania, but across the country," Barone said. "The program that began in our region has been replicated in 22 other states and has provided much needed health care coverage to 100,000 children throughout the country."
 To qualify for enrollment in the Caring Program children must be:
 -- Between the ages of 6 and 19;
 -- In school;
 -- From a family earning not more than 185 percent of the federal poverty level -- for example, annual earnings of not more than $26,566 for a family of four; and
 -- Not eligible for Medical Assistance or BlueCHIP of Pennsylvania.
 No child is denied coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.
 "The Caring Program for Children succeeds because it is a community partnership -- neighbors helping neighbors," according to Charles P. LaVallee, executive director of the Western Pennsylvania Caring Foundation. "The program receives contributions from businesses, foundations, religious organizations, civic groups, schools, unions and individuals. BCWP and PBS match these contributions dollar-for-dollar, as well as donate administrative services so the greatest number of children can be served."
 The cost of providing coverage through the Caring Program is $552 per child per year. Coverage through the Caring Program complements another health care program for families -- BlueCHIP of Pennsylvania, a state-supported program which is also administered by the Western Pennsylvania Caring Foundation in this region.
 "The Caring Program demonstrates the critical and meaningful role the private sector can play in developing innovative solutions that meet the needs of the uninsured," said Dr. Gilbert Friday, chairman of PBS. "This program is a key component of what we call the Pennsylvania model for health care reform. We continue to encourage the federal government to look closely at Pennsylvania as it formulates national health care policy.
 "As a pediatrician, I believe that primary and preventive health care for children is critical. Undetected diseases and disorders can have damaging and permanent aftereffects. We believe that every child deserves a chance to grow up healthy," Friday added.
 The Caring Program protects the dignity of the child by the use of a Blue Cross/Blue Shield identification card. LaVallee encourages families interested in enrollment information to contact the Caring Program for Children at 1-800-KIDS-105.
 -0- 1/11/94
 /CONTACT: John McDermott, 412-255-8247, or Diane Wuycheck, 412-255-7697, both of Blue Cross/

CO: Blue Cross of Western Pennsylvania; Pennsylvania Blue Shield ST: Pennsylvania IN: HEA INS SU:

CD-MK -- PG015 -- 1082 01/11/94 15:10 EST
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Jan 11, 1994

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