Children’s Health Coverage in Florida Making Progress But Many Challenges Ahead, New FPN Brief Shows

KidsCoverageBriefCover600Last week Florida Philanthropic Network and our Florida Health Funders member affinity group released an educational brief on the state of children’s health coverage in Florida. Anyone who cares about the health of Florida’s kids needs to know the information covered in the publication.

Authored by Joan Alker, Executive Director of the Center for Children and Families at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute, the brief has some good news for Florida: over the past five years, the number and rate of uninsured children has declined in in the state, mirroring a nationwide trend. In 2008, about 668,000 Florida children ages 18 and under were uninsured; by 2013 that number had dropped to 445,000.

But now the bad news: Florida ranks 47th among all states and the District of Columbia for the percent of children who are uninsured – 11.1%. That rate is higher than in all other states in the Southeast, and considerably higher in most cases. Alabama’s rate, for example, is 4.3%; South Carolina’s is 6.7%.

According to the brief, Florida’s rate of uninsured children is likely to drop over the next few years due to some key provisions in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). For one thing, as parent coverage becomes more widely available and more parents enroll, research shows that children’s coverage rates also rise due to what is known as the ”welcome mat” effect from coverage being available to the entire family.

Alker highlights a number of policy issues that may impact the number of uninsured children in Florida in the future. On the federal level, the most critical issue is whether or not Congress will renew funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – which in Florida is called KidCare/Healthy Kids. If Congress doesn’t take action, funding will expire on September 30, 2015, and preliminary estimates suggest that approximately 400,000 children in Florida would lose CHIP coverage as a result.

On the state level, the brief highlights three policy changes that are likely to reduce the number of uninsured children in Florida:

  • Extend KidCare eligibility to lawfully residing immigrant children. Florida is one of 25 states that has not elected to use CHIP funding to cover lawfully residing immigrant children. Picking up this option, according to Alker, would “create a more welcoming environment for families whose immigration status may be mixed and reduce the disproportionately high number of Hispanic children who are uninsured” in Florida
  • Eliminate waiting periods for Healthy Kids. Currently, Florida requires children to be uninsured for two months before they are eligible to enroll in Healthy Kids. Alker points out that these waiting periods are rooted in pre-ACA incentive structures that are no longer relevant. “In a system that aspires to universal coverage, where families are subject to penalties for not having coverage, waiting periods no longer make sense,” she writes. For these reasons, 20 states have dropped waiting periods in the past year.
  • Eliminate premiums for some or all families. Florida is one of just seven states that charges CHIP enrollment premiums to the lowest-income children who are eligible. Florida’s premiums range from $15-$20 a month depending on income and family size, and “likely function as a deterrent to enrollment for some low-income families,” Alker explains.

For more information on children’s health coverage in Florida, you can download the brief here, view a recent FPN webinar with Joan Alker where she highlighted and expanded on information in the brief, and download Alker’s slides from the webinar.

Florida Philanthropic Network would like to thank FPN members the Winter Park Health Foundation and the Jessie Ball duPont Fund for their generous support that made the educational brief possible. We’d also like to thank our Florida Health Funders member affinity group for partnering with us to commission the brief. Florida Health Funders represents FPN members who share an interest in supporting health issues, organizations and needs in Florida. The group works to be a voice for philanthropy on important health policy issues for the state.

– David Biemesderfer, President & CEO, Florida Philanthropic Network

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