STATE LEGISLATURE MAY REINSTANTE KIDCARE FOR LEGAL IMMIGRANTS CHILDREN-Andrew Stelzer04/12/06
The Florida legislature has been working on re-opening the kidcare enrollment process to the children of legal immigrants. But earlier this week, after the bill made it through several house committees, its been stalled in the House appropriations committee, because committee chair Joe Negron says there isnâ€™t enough money. Karen Woodall is a lobbyist for several statewide farm workers associations.
ACT-Woodall â€œHis statement wee this may not be a priority. I submit that insurance for kids is the priority..â€?
The kidcare program, which provides health insurance to children of low income Floridians, used to also cover the children of immigrants who were in the country legally, and going through the process of applying for citizenship, or working with a permit. But changes made by the state legislature in 2004 stopped children of immigrants from enrolling, unless they were from Haiti or Cuba, two countries which have a separate politically related classification. Since then, according to Woodall, enrollment by the children of legal immigrants has fallen from 13 to 14,000, to a current enrollment of only 3000 children. Legislators are working with a budget surplus of over 7 billion dollars, and Woodall says spending 15 million dollars for a good program is a mere drop in the bucket.
ACT-Woodall â€œWhat were advocating is that the leg not cuts 60 million, we donâ€™t want them to take that cut, and designate 15 million dollars of reinstatement of coverage, and we want 6 million to restore outreach.â€?
Kidcare lets Parents pay premiums of 15 to 20 dollars per month, and their children would be treated by a primary care physician whenever they needed it. Luckler Millian is the immigrant project coordinator with the Farm worker association of Florida, He says opening up the program would effect 50 to 60 thousand children in Florida, and thatâ€™s not even all of those who are eligible.
ACT-Millian â€œThe children of immigrants are not different from other children, they are human beings..immigrants are contributing to tax systems, and the children are growing up here with other children and so we need to keep them healthy..if you have a child going to school do you want them in a classroom with a sick kid.â€?
The governor and legislature are planning to remove between 170 and 205 million form the kidcare budget, because of low enrollment numbers. But healthcare and children advocates have criticized kidcare for not doing enough outreach to let families know the program exists. Over 210,000 children are served by kidcare statewide but almost 150,000 eligible children are not enrolled.
ACT-Woodall â€œThere is a different between TV and having people in communities, having people at clinics and getting the word out, lot of people still think the kidcare program is closed, people need assistance, but there are few who donâ€™t want to see the program â€œ
After chair Joe Negronâ€™s objections, the House appropriations committee temporarily passed the bill, meaning it will come up next week and depending on what additional revenue is found they will decide whether to let it move forward.
ACT-Millian â€œIf we donâ€™t take care of them now, we will be paying for it later..â€?
Additionally the bill would allow the children of state employees to enroll in kidcare, which had also been stopped by the 2004 legislation. Woodall says that because the lead sponsors of the bills in both the house and senate are republicans pushing these bills, she thinks they will ultimately pass. She also noted that the national debate surrounding immigration reform has not really become a factor in the debate.
ACT-Woodall â€œThe debate national is on undocumented folks, and although there has been misrepresentation, but it only pertains to legal immigrants who are not allowed to federal dollarsâ€¦â€?
For more information about kidcare, log onto www.floridakidcare.org