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Gallagher Shows Parents How to Insure Their Children's Health Online

8/24/2001

TALLAHASSEE - State Treasurer and Insurance Commissioner Tom Gallagher today urged parents to take advantage of a new and faster way to sign up their children for Healthy Kids, a program that offers affordable health insurance to school-age and pre-school-age children in Florida.

Gallagher's announcement came during a visit with families at Palm Terrace Elementary School in Daytona, where the commissioner helped enroll six children via a pilot program that makes online applications available in schools, hospitals and other community settings. The new service will be provided in six Florida counties, including Volusia.

"At least 372,000 uninsured children are eligible for low-cost or free health care, but their families are unaware," Gallagher said. Making online applications available in places that families often visit, like schools, clinics, hospitals and health fairs, makes it easier to enroll children in this nationally-recognized program."

Gallagher said that children whose health is insured perform better academically. He cited research showing that those with no coverage are less likely to receive medical care and 25 percent more likely to miss school.

"The program's impact on student attendance and achievement has been positive," said Fred Miller, assistant superintendent of the Volusia County schools. "Teachers say that students with chronic health problems who were often absent or treated in the school clinic have had fewer missed days."

Healthy Kids insures 206,413 children ages 5 to 18 statewide. It has insured 400,000 since beginning as a pilot project in Volusia County in 1990, and is now available in all 67 Florida counties. Participating children receive coverage for regular check-ups, immunizations, prescriptions, emergency room and office visits, eyeglasses, hearing and vision screening and special care for conditions such as asthma or diabetes.

Most families pay $15 a month for all of their children in the program. Some services have small co-payments, such as $3 for prescriptions and $10 for eyeglasses.

"We are proud to say that thousands of children who would otherwise have remained uninsured have had access to quality health care since the program began," said Dee Schaeffer, president and CEO of Healthy Communities, which oversees outreach for the Volusia and Flagler programs.

This month the Volusia program reached the benchmark of 10,000 children currently enrolled, with a total of 28,000 over the life of the program. Schaeffer expects the addition of online applications to increase enrollment by five to seven percent.

"Counties that are relatively new to the Healthy Kids program should see a higher percentage increase," Schaeffer added. "Due to our long history with the program, we have been able to reach more people here than in most other counties."

The effort to enroll children online is part of a pilot program in six counties. In Volusia and Flagler counties, outreach workers like Schaeffer will help families enroll at health clinics, health fairs, day care centers and schools. In Dade County, the Public Health Trust will provide online access to families; in Broward, Memorial Health Care Systems will. Public schools will provide the service in Santa Rosa, the county health department in Leon.

"One child in five is uninsured in Florida," Gallagher said. "It is imperative that we continue to reach out to parents whose greatest need may be health insurance for their children."

Gallagher said that whole communities will benefit as more children are enrolled, thanks to increased immunizations, reduced visits to the emergency room and larger numbers of young people on track for college and the job market.

To qualify, children must be between the ages of 5 and 18, not eligible for Medicaid benefits or Children's Medical Services, and not enrolled in another health insurance program. Pre-school-age siblings may also join. Healthy Kids falls under the state's umbrella of insurance programs for children, Florida KidCare, which provides coverage for infants and toddlers as well as school-age children.

The online application asks for social security numbers, home and business contacts, birth dates, and household and income information. For an application or for more information, call toll-free at 1-888-540-KIDS, or visit www.healthykids.org or www.floridakidcare.org. Applications will also be available this fall on the campus of every Florida public school