Legislators Push to Reopen KidCare Enrollment Year-Round

Florida lawmakers say their efforts to improve the KidCare insurance program may have hurt more families than they helped, and now they're trying to make things right.

A change last year dropped year-round enrollment to just a couple of times a year, and tens of thousands of families weren't able to get their paperwork in on time.

Lawmakers hope returning to year-round enrollment will get health care to more children who desperately need it.

January's 30-day window to sign up for KidCare insurance turned into a bureaucratic nightmare for frustrated parents and overburdened KidCare workers trying to sort thousands of applications. Now the program is serving 124,000 fewer children than it was last year, which was not the plan.

A bill speeding through the Capitol would reopen KidCare to families year-round. Rep. Shelly Vana thinks it was wrong to change it in the first place, but now she just wants to make it right.

“At the end of the day, if we don’t give access to health care to our most vulnerable babies and children, we don't have a lot to be proud of so we need to make sure we do the best we can.”

Some of the state's most powerful legislators are now admitting that their well-intentioned efforts to bring more accountability to KidCare had some serious unintended consequences.

Millions of state and federal dollars were left on the table when families failed to sign up, and their kids were forced to go without health insurance. We asked House Speaker Allan Bense what he would say to the families who got lost in the red tape.

“We think we need to encourage them as much as we can and if folks fell through the cracks, I'm sorry, I apologize,” he says.

Karen Woodall lobbies lawmakers on behalf of low income families. She says she won't play the blame game as long as lawmakers get it right this time.

“It truly has been a bipartisan effort to fix it, so we're looking forward to everyone singing Kumbaya and getting kids enrolled."

If the bill passes, KidCare expects at least 100,000 more children will get the health care they need.

House Speaker Allan Bense says he expects the bill expanding KidCare to year-round enrollment will pass the House and Senate shortly, and he hopes the governor will sign it quickly.

For more information on the KidCare program, log on to www.floridakidcare.org.