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Contact: RALPH J.CONDO
(609) 292-0600
 

FOR RELEASE JUNE 21, 2006

Catastrophic Illness In Children Relief Fund Commission Announces Annual Awards For Families

TRENTON, NJ - The Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund Commission (CICRFC) today announced that it has approved 327 applications totaling $7 million in this state fiscal year, meeting its mandate to make a real difference for New Jersey families struggling to pay overwhelming medical bills for their sick children.  “The Fund is proud to say that it was able to help over 50 additional families this year, due to an aggressive public information campaign and intensive Commission and staff effort,” said Ralph Condo, Executive Director of CICRFC.

At its annual June meeting, the Commission also acknowledged three recipient families who participated in a feature article published in Families magazine, a publication of the NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities which reaches over 15,000 New Jersey families statewide.  “These families were outstanding in helping us spread the word about the Fund to other families in need,” said Condo. 

Department of Human Services Deputy Commissioner of Family and Community Services, Jennifer Velez, attended 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 our state offers,” said Velez.  “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 a successful partnership of 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 $100 million for more than 4,100 families.  “The families have their own unique stories to tell but are not unlike most New Jersey families who work hard and pay their bills.  Yet 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.

Several families who have benefited from the fund and now serve as volunteers on the CICRFC 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, medical equipment, medically related home and vehicle modification and transportation, and home care.

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,” said Condo.  “A family may have health insurance, but coverage can be inadequate when a child has a serious, expensive illness or injury.  The Fund can help families avoid financial crisis and return to the routine responsibilities of life.”

While legislation creating the fund protects the anonymity of families who have received grant awards, several families attended the annual meeting to share their experience as a way of encouraging other families in need to apply for assistance.  (See family profiles below.)

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.

 
 
Families in Attendance on June 21, 2006
Colleen Buckman of Hasbrouck Heights, Bergen County, who is the legal guardian for her 5-year-old niece Ashley, was without health insurance when Ashley became ill with a liver disease. After hospitalization and treatment, this single parent was left with significant uncovered medical expenses even though she did receive Charity Care at one facility.  The Fund paid over $5,000 of the extra medical bills.

Anthony and Sandra Leyden of Oradell, Bergen County, were insured when their premature twins, Christopher and Andrew were born.  Now three, the boys are thriving and happy.  Both boys had experienced the usual respiratory difficulties associated with prematurity and required prolonged hospitalization; however, while in the neonatal intensive care unit, Christopher developed a serious infection requiring aggressive treatment and surgery.  Since one of the healthcare providers was out-of-network, the family was left with significant financial responsibility after insurance benefits were paid.  After applying to the Fund, the Leyden’s received awards of over $25,000 for Christopher and over $8,100 for Andrew to relieve this debt.

Aaron and Wanda Saunders of Burlington, Burlington County, had health insurance for their daughter Erin, who is 13 and has cerebral palsy. Erin uses a wheelchair for mobility and requires special accommodations for medically related travel and to assist her in her daily living activities. Her family purchased a modified van for her transportation and installed a stair lift in their house, giving Erin access to all areas of her home.  The Fund awarded over $34,000 for these modifications.

Sal and Diane Grasso of Marlton, Burlington County, faced many uncovered and out-of-pocket expenses for their son Nicholas, who has cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder and is now 12 years old.  He requires total care, is fed via a gastrostomy tube, uses a wheelchair, and has home nursing care. His family had to modify their home to accommodate his multiple needs, including equipment for daily therapy provided by licensed therapists in the home. The Commission assisted them with over $25,000 for much needed home modifications.  An earlier CICRF award defrayed the cost of a medically modified van for Nicholas’ transportation. 

Claudio and Olivia Middleton of Hightstown, Mercer County, were insured when their daughter Lucia, now 6 years old, required extensive neuro-developmental evaluations as well as speech and occupational therapies.  Lucia has an expressive and receptive language disorder and motor delays.  Insurance denied coverage for these services, leaving the family with significant out-of-pocket expenses.  The Commission awarded them over $4,600 to help defray these uncovered expenses.

Christopher and Susan Nelson of Old Bridge, Middlesex County, were insured when Susan’s son, Daniel Wooliscroft , now 12 years old, required serious surgery at an out-of-state hospital in an effort to control his seizures. Daniel has cerebral palsy and epilepsy.  Although insured, the self-funded plan they used went bankrupt before all of the claims could be paid, leaving the family with a huge debt.  “We were elated that the Fund could help us alleviate this burden with an award of $100,000,” said Susan Nelson.  In a previous year, the Nelson’s received over $18,000 for uncovered medical expenses.

Latasha Sharpe of Port Reading, Middlesex County, had Medicaid coverage for her children, 13-year-old Daisha and 11-year-old As’iah, when both girls needed surgery.  They were born with cleft lips and palates and had undergone multiple prior surgeries. This surgery required bone grafting to the palate and was done by an oral surgeon who did not participate with NJ Medicaid.  The Fund paid the significant uncovered bills of this single parent with awards of $8,395 for Daisha’s balance and $8,405 for As’iah’s balance.

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