KidCare health insurance has 33,000 openings

09/06/07 Seán Kinane
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Enrollment in the state's KidCare program is down.

Florida’s health insurance program for low- and middle-income children had 33,000 open spots as recently as the beginning of the school year.

This is quite a change from three years ago when there was a waiting list for families to enroll in KidCare. But the state is engaged in a $1-million campaign to promote enrollment, including sending 2.7 million applications home with schoolchildren.

Rose Naff is executive director of the Florida Healthy Kids Corp.

“We are working to fill 33 thousand positions in the Florida Healthy Kids, MediKids, and Childrens’ medical Services programs. And actually we’re reaching out much further than that and we hope to enroll possibly another 200,000 children in the Medicaid Program.”

One reason there are open slots in Florida’s children’s health insurance plans, according to U.S. Representative Kathy Castor, is because Congress increased funding for such programs.

“Well, here in the state of Florida we have half a million children that currently qualify for Florida KidCare under the S-CHIP program, state children’s Health Insurance Program. We have over half a million kids that are eligible, but not enrolled in it. And the Congress at the end of July passed a reauthorization for the next five years where we can get hundreds of thousands of more kids, and possibly 10 million more children across America into the doctor’s office.

“The Florida Legislature for the current year has provided us with enough money to meet the needs of all the children we think will come to the program this year.”

Families with the lowest incomes, below the federal poverty level, are eligible for Medicaid for Children. Families with higher incomes, even up to double the federal poverty level are eligible for the Healthy Kids program and their children under five can enroll in Medikids, as Department of Children and Families Secretary Bob Butterworth explains.

“This program really is for people who do not quite get Medicaid because they make a little too much more money but not enough to make them not eligible. Many people don’t realize. So when people apply to our office, if they meet the need for Medicaid, we will then put them in Medicaid. But if in fact they have a little too much, we will put them into the KidCare program.”

Schools are helping to inform families about the KidCare openings. Sandy Gallogly is supervisor of school health services for Hillsborough County Schools.

“This year KidCare has assisted us … to give each student in Hillsborough County elementary schools and middle schools an application for KidCare.”

Gallogly said the parents of uninsured students are given applications when their sick children are picked up from the schools’ health clinics.

Even Florida families that earn more than double the federal poverty level can enroll in Healthy Kids if they pay the full cost of the program.

But a letter sent on Aug. 17 from the Bush Administration might limit the number of Florida families who are eligible in the future.

The federal Center for Medicaid and State Operations put certain limits on states extending programs to families whose incomes exceed 250 percent of the federal poverty level.

Rep. Castor told WMNF in late August that these new rules might affect Florida’s children.

“Unfortunately the Bush administration is opposed to that effort and just this week [Aug 17] came out with a proposed administrative rule that would make it even tougher for families to sign kids up. So, President Bush is wrong, it’s morally wrong, and it’s financially unwise.”

But there has been some confusion about these new rules, in which states cannot extend eligibility to families making above 250 percent of poverty until at least 95 percent of lower-income children in the state have been enrolled.

According to Florida Healthy Kids’ Naff, the new rules probably will not affect Florida.

“Based on the little bit of information we have so far, it doesn’t appear that Florida would be adversely affected by those rules, but we do want to get clarification and confirmation that that’s the case.”

It remains unclear whether Florida families who earn more than 250% of federal poverty level and choose to purchase Healthy Kids insurance at the full cost would be affected by the new Bush administration rules. But Naff insists that even these Florida families would not be affected.

“Florida is one of the few states that has a program for the higher income families to buy in, but the buy-in option would not be affected by these rules that came out of Washington.”

The federal office of Health and Human Services declined WMNF’s requests for an interview with Dennis G. Smith, the director of the federal Center for Medicaid and State Operations, who sent the August letter. A spokesperson issued the following statement via email … “Florida is not affected” and said that only eleven states plus the district of Colombia would be affected.

For more information:

Florida Kid Care 1-888-540-5437

Florida Healthy Kids

Center for Medicaid and State Operations

Florida KidCare income eligibility

Florida Department of Children and Families

New York Times article about new standards

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