KID CARE - Mitch Perry

03/05/04

More than 90,000 children waiting for subsidized health insurance will get it under a measure headed to the desk of Governor Jeb Bush over the protestations of Democrats who say that accompanying changes to the program will ultimately deprive families.

The House passed a measure to spend $25 million in state and federal money to open enrollment in the KidCare program to children who were on a waiting list through January 30th. The popular program allows families with low incomes to buy cheap health insurance for their children.

But the bill also overhauls the way families get into the program. Among the changes are one that would prevent many families from enrolling if they have access to private insurance through an employer. Another aims to limit fraud, requiring more proof of income before parents can enroll.

Even though they've argued vociferously for spending money to allow more children into KidCare, Democrats voted against the bill because of the eligibility changes.

Bush has said he wants to reduce the waiting list and wants assurances that families with access to other health care coverage won't be included, but hasn't specifically committed to signing the bill.

Republicans say the eligibility changes have to be made because of KidCare's explosive growth.

But Democrats argued that the reason a number of children's advocacy groups don't support the bill is that the changes in eligibility will in the long run be too detrimental to a program widely considered a success.

Democratic Representative Suzanne Kosmas New Smyrna Beach failed in her bid to change the bill to fund more than 100,000 children currently waiting for insurance and eliminate the proposed eligibility changes.(roll tape#1 o.q."out of pocket expenses")

Republicans repeatedly demanded from Democrats that they suggest where the money should come from if the program wasn't going to be changed to reduce the growing number of people trying to get in.

Democratic Representative Suzanne Kosmas of New Smyrna Beach says that unlike the Republicans in the legislature, she belives that Kid Care helped empower Low income earning parents in the state, not entitle them(roll tape#2 o.q"take for granted")

The bill also set up two enrollment periods per year during which families must sign up.The money will only provide enough to enroll the 90,280 children who were on the waiting list at the end of January. Anyone who signed up after that will have to wait and apply under the new rules during the next enrollment period.

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