Senate Panel Approves KidCare Expansion For Immigrants

Nov 19, 2015

Florida senators continued moving forward Wednesday with a bill that would help the children of legal immigrants get low-cost health insurance coverage through the state's KidCare program.

The Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee unanimously approved the bill (SB 248), which also received the backing last month of the Senate Health Policy Committee.

The measure would eliminate a five-year wait between when immigrants' kids become eligible for coverage and when they actually start getting it. It would apply only to "lawfully residing" children and not to undocumented immigrants.

The bill is filed for the 2016 legislative session, which will be Health and Human Services Appropriations Chairman Rene Garcia's fourth try at getting the proposal into law.

"It's not an immigration issue; it's a humanitarian issue,'' Garcia, R-Hialeah, said. "It's about taking care of these children, and the federal government recognized that we needed to eliminate that five-year wait period. Why can't the state of Florida do the same thing?"

Last year, the proposal easily passed the Senate, but stalled in the House after passing one committee. Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, has filed the House version (HB 89) for the 2016 session, which starts in January.