The governor says there aren’t enough families signing up for “KidCare” and “Healthy Kids,” but critics say the state made the program too complicated for families to use.
More than 160,000 low-income families across Florida rely on the Healthy Kids program for their children’s’ health insurance. Child advocate Conni Wells helps parents weed through the required paperwork, and she was furious to find out the governor wants to cut $200 million from the program.
Conni says, "This could be one of the greatest disservices we have done to our families."
But enrollment has dropped by more than 130,000 children over the past two years, and Jeb Bush argues it doesn’t make sense to spend the money if it’s not being used.
Rose Naff runs the Healthy Kids program and says, "There’s actually room in the program today, even for us to add another 39,000 children, even with the budget alignment exercise that’s going on. All eligible families need to do is apply and we’ll be able to cover them."
Advocates blame the empty slots on lawmakers changing requirements twice over the past two years, thoroughly confusing families already overwhelmed by financial and health crises.
Conni Wells, a child advocate, says, "Possibly the unfilled slots is not saying to us we don’t have kids who need insurance. It might be saying to us, gosh, we haven’t done a really good job of getting to the families we need to get to [in order to] to get them to where they need to be."
Advocates hope the governor will consider using the extra money to expand the program instead of cutting it so additional families would be eligible, and maybe spend more on outreach to let families know help is available.
Officials estimate 143,000 children are eligible for Healthy Kids benefits that aren’t currently enrolled.
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