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Current, Former Heads of Kidcare Urge Quick Save by Lawmakers

5/8/2007

CONTACT: Dan McLaughlin (202) 224-5274
Tara Klimek (850) 413-2842

TALLAHASSEE-Three days after the Florida Legislature ended its annual session without steps to bolster a program that provides low-cost health insurance for hundreds of thousands of kids, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink today urged Gov. Charlie Crist and legislative leaders to shore up the program during an upcoming special session.
 
Without quick action, the state's KidCare program will continue to operate as a complicated bureaucratic maze, leaving tens of thousands of children without affordable coverage for doctor office visits, prescription medicines and hospital costs.
 
Nelson, who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000, served the previous six years as Florida's treasurer and insurance commissioner, a position that also involved his overseeing the Healthy Kids Board, a component of the state's insurance program for school-age kids.  "The health of our children determines not just their well-being but their ability to flourish in life," Nelson said in statement issued in Washington, D.C., today.  Nelson's former state posts were combined with the Florida comptroller's into the new position of chief financial officer.
 
"It's essential that we reform the Florida KidCare program this year," said CFO Sink, the current chair of the Healthy Kids Board.  "Sen. Nelson and I are calling upon the governor and legislative leadership to add this important issue to the upcoming special session."
 
Over the past few years, more than 100,000 Florida children have lost their health insurance coverage through the KidCare program.  By failing to invest in this critical program, the state continues to lose millions in federal funding, as every state dollar invested in KidCare earns a two dollar match from the federal government.  If Florida fails to reform KidCare, the state will continue to lose more federal funding to other states and thousands of children will only receive health care from local emergency rooms at higher taxpayer expense.
 
Sink added she was pleased to see some additional funding in the state budget, but without the critically needed KidCare enrollment process changes, the money will have a hard time reaching these families.  "What good is additional funding if the families can't access it because the program is more convoluted than a spaghetti factory?" questioned CFO Sink.
 
The Florida KidCare program, once a model program for the nation, is a public-private partnership that helps eligible workings families purchase affordable health insurance for their children.  Currently, Florida has the second-highest percentage of uninsured children - 17 percent - behind Texas.  More than 500,000 additional children are estimated to be eligible for the KidCare program, if adequately funded and streamlined to make it easier for families.