TALLAHASSEE, Fla. UPDATE 5:20
The group KidsWell Florida was out at the Capitol Wednesday looking to help insure thousands of children.
Under current law, children who qualify for the state's KidCare program have to wait 5 years before being covered. Scott Casey, a single-father himself, knows this first-hand.
His son, who's 10, needed mental health care last year. But because of the waiting period, Casey had to pay out-of-pocket for it.
"Now he has the care that he needs," said Casey at a press conference Wednesday. "I just wish at the time that he would have been able to quickly, and I urge the legislators of this state to pass this bill."
Florida ranks third in the nation for uninsured kids. If legislation is passed, more than 20,000 children would be insured right away.
HB4023 and SB704 still have a ways to go before they become law. That's why proponents are here at the Capitol during children's week asking for support.
Activist Margarita Romo even made a direct plea to the speaker of the house, Will Weatherford.
"Mr. Weatherford," said Romo. "You know I love you and I ask you to come forth and help us. I want everyone to come together. This is the time. This is the place."
Press Release: KidsWell Florida
Tallahassee – Today, lawmakers and child health advocates gathered at the Florida Capitol to urge the Florida legislature to pass vital child health care legislation. Florida ranks 3rd in the nation in the number of uninsured children. The Florida Legislature has the opportunity to extend coverage to many of these children in dire need of health care through legislation that is currently stalled.
Two sets of bills have been introduced in the Florida House and Senate that stand to improve children’s access to health care and medical services. HB 4023/SB 704 removes a five-year waiting period that now prevents more than 20,000 “lawfully-residing” children in Florida from real health coverage. HB 689/ SB 548 extends presumptive eligibility to qualified entities, such as Federally Qualified Health Centers to make on-the-spot, temporary eligibility decisions on Florida KidCare so eligible children get immediate access to medical services for 30-60 days.
"As the son of Cuban immigrants, the issue of ensuring that all children have the opportunity to access heath care services when they need it most is very important to me," said Representative Jose Felix Diaz, bill sponsor of HB 4023, which removes the 5 year waiting list for lawfully-residing immigrant kids. "The rate of uninsured families is very high - back at home and statewide. I feel strongly that these children must be treated with fairness and given the same chance as everyone else. My hope is that my fellow lawmakers see the urgency of making it happen this session."
Today, there was a great deal of support on behalf of Florida’s children. Senator Rene Garcia, bill sponsor SB 704; Representative Jose Diaz, bill sponsor HB 4023; Diana Ragbeer, The Children’s Trust; Margarita Romo, Farmworkers Self Help; a local father to shared his story of son’s lack of health coverage; and many other child advocates and organizations were present.
“Florida’s kids in need of health care cannot wait. We are coming together to call on lawmakers to stand up for Florida’s children and provide vital health care services,” said Diana Ragbeer of The Children’s Trust.
KidsWell Florida is a statewide collaborative of families, providers, advocates and leaders who have joined forces to close the gaps in public and private health insurance for Florida’s children – ensuring full access to health care. Its leadership includes Florida CHAIN, Children’s Movement of Florida, Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, The Children’s Trust, and the Florida Child Healthcare Coalition. www.kidswellflorida.org, Facebook, Twitter