Tomorrow was supposed to be the cutoff date for parents to submit renewal forms to ensure their children will not be removed from Florida’s Kidcare state funded health insurance program, which currently covers about 300 children. But for the third time, the deadline has been moved back, this time until Monday. According to Rose Naff, executive director of the Florida healthy kids corporation, the office has been struggling to serve those who want to apply.

ACt-Naff ‘Were processing about 300 forms a day, yesterday we had 33 buckets of mail all of it was scanned and processed and ill be completed by tonight…our toll free lines are swamped, 180 additional lines, around 50,000 families are trying to reach us, �

Many child and family advocates say the new rules about renewals and applications have made the process more cumbersome for parents and the kidcare staff; for the first time this year, applicants must submit a renewal application, recent wage statements, a w-2 and IRS tax return, and documentation of other income such as child support, or veterans benefits. Until the recent changes, people simply had to fill in a form with their income. Staci Justice works at the Florida institute for family involvement.

ACT-justice ‘I've heard from some families who sent their information in twice, some faxed it in, lines have been busy, they aren’t able to get through… the deadline being extended is a good thing,. I don’t think it’s enough because there are 80 thousand families�

Karen Woodall is a longtime child advocate and a member of the kidcare coordinating council.

ACT-Woodall “We’ve now with 49,000 families getting cancellation notices there talk about me being lazy and many of these families are struggling and sitting around documenting income 4 or 5 times is not easy.�

ACT-Woodall “We know from history that whenever we make programs harder we make barriers and people don’t apply…’

Woodall says 1 piece of proof of income is reasonable, but the current requirements are overkill; they were instituted largely at the request of republican state legislators who said they wanted to reduce the number of people who were fraudulently receiving benefits when their income was too high.

ACT-Woodall “There never was any specific reporting done on fraud, that was speculative, and there are very few families being disenrolled, this is about too much paperwork being required…�

ACT-Naff “I completely disagree, (ROSE NAFF From healthy kids)

over 100,000 have gotten their paperwork in, but the families haven’t sent us anything, not even a form lacking all of their documentation…�

ACT-Naff “Some of these families we’ve asked since last July, we’ve made repeated attempts, we’ve even knocked on doors..�

According to Naff, if a family does lose coverage, they will still be able to send in their documentation and renew at a later date, but in the meantime their coverage will expire due the new rules, which were adopted in July. Karen Woodall is hoping the state legislature alters the new kidcare renewal rules in their special session next month, which would take effect before the new enrollments period begins on January 1st.

ACT-Woodall “the original bill only required verification,..but later on there was an amendment there was a requirement, it was the difference between an and or an or that’s causing the problems….we are hopeful that in a special session that we can fix this one issue for multiple pieces of documentation..there are other changes that we are seeing the effects of for regular session, but the reason its important to do something about this early because January is the only open enrollment under new guidelines, and we are concerned that we will have more complex process if this isn’t addressed before January enrollment..�

This will be the first time there will only be a 1- 30 day period for new children to enroll, and the waiting list has been eliminated. Neither advocates or kidcare program staff think that all of the several hundred thousand potentially eligible children in Florida will be signed up, Rose Naff said everyone who applies and is eligible will be accepted, but many like Staci Justice from the Florida institute for family involvement say that will only be possible because the shorter enrollment period, which used to be January and September; will reduce the number of people who end up applying.

ACT-justice ‘Legislators need to keep in mind that you have to keep funding the program to keep it going..�

ACT-justice ‘I hope that legislators see what’s gone wrong and fix the progress before a lot of families lose coverage for their children…�

And Woodall says the patterns seen in healthy kids are part of a nationwide trend seen in Tennessee and Oregon, where successful public health care program being taken apart piece by piece.

ACT-Woodall “People are more focused on budget cutting..we know florid had a model program in healthy kids, but many states are cutting successful very good insurance programs, while at the same time they are doing studies about the uninsured, it’s a inconsistent dynamic going on but it goes back to the perception saving money, but you don’t save money, you end up spending more money and they don’t get preventative care..�

To get your renewal application in for the kidcare program call 1-888-540-5437. New applications will not be accepted until January 1st.

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