Florida KidCare

The economic upheaval that has left hundreds of thousands of Floridians without jobs is also upending health insurance for children in working families. There is a growing fear that families dealing with the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic cannot qualify for low-cost children’s health coverage offered in state programs, yet may not easily transition to Medicaid, the safety net program for poor, elderly and disabled people. “We are hearing from people who have always had stable health insurance and a good income,” said Jodi Ray, director of Florida Covering Kids and Families at the University of South Florida. “Now, all of a sudden, they have to apply and they are trying to fill out Medicaid applications and they don’t know what they are doing. They have never had to go through this.” Based on trends since the pandemic began causing Florida businesses to lay off employees in the spring, state economists are predicting that as many as 58,876 children will be dropped from the Florida KidCare program during the current fiscal year, which runs through June 2021. KidCare is Florida’s version of what’s known federally as the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. KidCare provides subsidized insurance for children between the ages of 1 and 18 who live in families with annual incomes between $34,848 and $52,404 for a family of four – which doesn’t make them wealthy, but does make them too "rich" to qualify for Medicaid. Children between the ages of 1 and 4 who meet the income criteria are offered access to what’s called a MediKids policy. School-aged children who meet the criteria have access to the Florida Healthy Kids program, and medically complex children who meet the requirements are offered access to the Children’s Medical Services program. Insurance premiums range from $15 to $20 per month, regardless of which program enrolls a child. Florida Healthy Kids Executive Director Ryan West said roughly 35,000 children will fall off the Healthy Kids program in the coming year and be enrolled in Medicaid because they no longer meet the income eligibility requirements. Medicaid has seen overall enrollment increases in recent months amid the pandemic. Enrollment increased from 3,764,038 in March to 4,210,849 in July. And economists agree that enrollment will top 4.3 million this year. Ray also worries the state isn’t doing enough to identify children who have become uninsured in recent months due to parents’ job losses. “My biggest takeaway is that we need more resources on the ground to help these families. That’s really the big thing,” she said. “It’s not a problem that people are shifting from Healthy Kids or CHIP to Medicaid. That’s OK. What about the kids we are not getting who are not insured right now but who were previously insured? The parents don’t know what to do. Or those that were disenrolled from CHIP and didn’t get into Medicaid.

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