Navigating the healthcare system for families is often confusing, and when you add public programs like Medical Assistance to the equation, getting medical care can become downright frustrating.
Hennepin County Child and Teen Checkups is a free service that is available to help eligible families whose children get their health care through Medical Assistance or a related health plan.
“We connect families who have Medical Assistance to clinics, specialty clinics and doctors, for preventive care as well as when they are ill,” said Sonoma Paiz, community health specialist with Hennepin County Child and Teen Checkups.
“As you go into the suburbs, fewer clinics take this coverage. We keep up to date with clinics that take Medical Assistance and the health plans those folks are on.” Hennepin County Child and Teen Checkups serves some 40,000 families, helping families find and schedule dental appointments as well as medical care.
“Dental clinics…are harder to find with MA. By their first birthday, children should have a dental checkup. After that they are covered for dental coverage every six months,” she said.
In an effort to address and remove barriers to health care for families, Hennepin County Child and Teen Checkups also connects those it serves to transportation services. They can arrange for rides for routine physical checkups and well as for when a sick child needs to see a doctor.
“We want families to get in the habit of seeing a doctor when they are healthy, not just waiting until they are sick,” Paiz said. “It’s so much better for everyone when we catch things earlier rather than later.”
The appointment schedule, especially for babies and toddlers, is quite rigorous. “Children under the age of three need to be seen every few months. This is for their checkups and their routine immunizations. They get a physical during each visit when the provider can track their growth and development and do things like screen their hearing and vision,” Paiz said.
Children on Medical Assistance are covered from birth until they are 20, but as children age they often see less of the doctor.
“We do see a drop in appointments in teens and young adults but it’s important that they keep coming in for those physicals. This is also when we can connect with them about mental health concerns. Some kids can talk to a doctor rather than someone in their family,” she said. “This care is also covered by their health plan.”
Hennepin County Child and Teen Checkups also provides translators who speak Hmong, Somali, Spanish and other languages. The translators can help set up appointments and accompany families when they visit their healthcare providers.
“These translators are some of our other staff who live in the community and represent the community,” Paiz said. “The trust level is there because of that representation, so they can explain what their needs are.”