Gov. Jeb Bush and republican leaders say Florida now has the money to eliminate a waiting list of more than 100,000 children hoping to get on the KidCare insurance plan, but they don't want to spend that money yet. The delay is angering people who say sick kids can't afford to wait.
In the two weeks since our last report, another 11,000 children went on the waiting list for Florida's KidCare insurance program, bringing the total to almost 117,000 kids, but now, House Speaker Johnnie Byrd says the state can use a $130 million federal windfall to provide insurance to every eligible child on the list.
“We'll be able to take that money and hopefully completely be able to do away with the waiting list, restructure the program going forward to make sure that we focus on those who are most in need and most vulnerable, but I believe right now that the futures' very bright,” says Rep. Johnnie Byrd.
What should be great news is meeting with frustration from democratic lawmakers like Sen. Les Miller. He can't understand why Byrd and others want to wait to spend the cash.
“The money is there so why can't we go ahead and eliminate this waiting list of children that are utilizing our emergency rooms and doctors offices. It's very frustrating,” says Rep. Les Miller.
In a letter this week, Jeb Bush said he agrees lawmakers must act quickly to solve the KidCare crisis, but not until the first week of the regular legislative session.
The governor is ready to use the extra federal cash to provide KidCare insurance to children on the waiting list, but he says since it takes weeks to determine eligibility. It wouldn't make sense to rush it with a special session next week. That doesn't make sense to Senate Minority Leader Ron Klein.
“We need to take care of the problem now. For every day that passes, you have another family that has a child that has a serious illness that has the potential of bankrupting that family,” says Sen. Ron Klein.
And while politicians wage their war of words, the waiting list for KidCare insurance is growing by about 5,000 more children a week. Jeb Bush says the number of children served by the KidCare insurance program has nearly doubled since he first took office five years ago to 1.6 million kids.