KidCare Enrollment is Up, Officials Want More
More than 50,000 children have gone on the rolls for Florida's subsidized health insurance program for kids in the past two months, and state officials are pushing for more to sign up.
“Now's the time to make sure all of our families know about the Florida KidCare program,” said former state Rep. Loranne Ausley, who is chair of the Florida Healthy Kids Board.
Florida KidCare currently enrolls about 1.6 million children and health officials will be going around the state, working with schools and local health departments to sign up more children whose families may have lost insurance because of the economic downturn.
Leah McCarthy's daughter Susanna, 8, has been enrolled in KidCare for the past five years. Though she had no health problems when she entered the program, she has since developed behavioral and gastrointestinal issues. McCarthy said she would not have been able to pay for all of the care without assistance from the state-run program.
“To me, they're all angels,” she said.
The majority of families enrolled in the program pay nothing and others pay premiums ranging from $15 to $159. About 90 percent of the children do not have major health problems.
KidCare has been beleaguered over the past few years because of budget cuts and with complaints over the process for getting into and staying in the program. Funding for the program had been cut in the past, so much that the outreach dollars weren't available to provide pediatricians throughout the state with copies of applications, said veteran Tallahassee lobbyist Karen Woodall, who also serves on an advisory council for the program.
It also faced challenges a law that made it more difficult for some families to enroll. The Legislature passed a measure this past year that would allow for electronic verification of family income, decrease the amount of time a child is disenrolled for a missed premium from 60 to 30 days and increase the number of reasons that families can use to cancel their existing coverage and be eligible for KidCare without a waiting period.
Woodall said program officials were grateful not to see budget cuts this year and that the law passed this year is key to helping more families sign their children up for the insurance.
“We certainly know we have a lot of uninsured kids out there even though we've enrolled a lot,” she said.
With more families out of work because of the recession there is a chance that applications could flood the KidCare offices. However, officials said they have enough money to cover a flood of new children enrolling in the program and a little cushioning past the projections.