Lawmakers Balk at Deep Cuts to KidCare; Consider Expansions to Program

Florida's KidCare insurance program for low-income children was facing more than $200 million in cuts this spring, but lawmakers have suddenly had a change of heart.

Some of that funding may be restored, and the program may also be expanded to reach families who weren't previously eligible.

Brenda Williams' eight-year-old son Kendrick lost his health coverage when his
daddy lost his job. She hopes to get Kendrick into Florida's KidCare program that provides health insurance at a cheap price for low-income families.

“Because at this age, anything can come up, chicken pox, measles, a wreck, anything can come up and I need insurance so some doctor can take care of my child.”

An advertising blitz sparked a flood of KidCare applications in recent weeks, ironically just as lawmakers were considering cutting hundreds of millions of dollars from the program. Then this week, a change of heart and they restored $25 million.

Lawmakers are also looking at ways to expand the KidCare program to cover children not currently eligible. They're worried too many kids are falling through the cracks.

The reversal comes on the heels of two years of lawmakers' changes to KidCare requirements that resulted in thousands of confused parents dropping out.

Rep. Shelley Vana said she's glad her colleagues are seeing the error of their ways.

“KidCare is being repaired, but we should note that it was broken on purpose first, and now we're starting to repair it again and I'm happy to see that happen.”

Parents like Brenda Williams say all they care about is making sure their children get the healthcare they need.

“That's the only thing important, that's my life.”

She's just hoping KidCare will be there to help.

Rep. Shelley Vana's bill to let parents of one-to-four-year-olds who make slightly too much to qualify for KidCare pay the full cost of the program passed its final committee Tuesday. It's now headed for a vote by the full House.

If the bill passes, eligible parents could pay about $100 per month per child for KidCare, rather than having to buy much more costly private insurance.