A Florida Senate committee approved a bill Monday that would streamline a state children's health insurance program, even though Congress has yet to reauthorize funding for the program.
The Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee unanimously approved the proposal (SB 108), which would create a 12-member task force in in the Florida Department of Health and charge it with making legislative recommendations by Dec. 31, 2018, on how to streamline and improve the Florida KidCare program.
The “point of this bill is to simplify the program for families and to streamline the administration and make it more efficient and save tax dollars,” bill sponsor Daphne Campbell, D-Miami, told members of the committee.
Longtime social-services advocate Karen Woodall for years has advocated streamlining KidCare, which is administered by a combination of state agencies, from the Department of Children and Families, which determines Medicaid eligibility, to the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation, which receives all KidCare applications and determines eligibility for the children's health- insurance program.
“Oftentimes, when you have multiple agencies, no matter how good you are, you lose kids between the programs,” Woodall told committee members as she testified in support of the bill, which cleared the committee unanimously.
The committee took up the bill during its first meeting in preparation for the 2018 legislative session, which starts in January. The measure would need to clear two more committees before it could go to the full Senate.
The Legislature created the KidCare Program in response to the federal enactment of the Children's Health Insurance Program in 1997. That program, commonly known as CHIP, provides subsidized health insurance to uninsured children who do not qualify for Medicaid but who have family incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty level and meet other eligibility criteria.
CHIP is currently authorized through 2019, but funding for the program expired Sept. 30.
Florida's CHIP allocation in fiscal year 2017-18 is $422.7 million, of which $16.9 million is state funds.
Children covered under the program could be at risk if Congress doesn't agree to additional funding. Woodall, though, is optimistic that won't happen.
“I believe there is an awful lot of bipartisan support for this,” she says.
Senate Children, Families and Elder Affairs Chairman Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah, said he is going to write a letter this week to members of Congress urging them to continue funding for the program.