By Kendall Boggs
Kicking off the Florida KidCare Back-to School Campaign
At a news conference and enrollment fair hosted by The Panhandle Area Heath Network held Friday August 8, the main issue was raising public awareness about getting local children insured, as well as rallying community support for the Florida KidCare children’s health insurance program.
The Florida KidCare program is comprised of four parts: MediKids-which covers children, ages one through four, Healthy Kids - children ages 5 through 18, Children’s Medical Services Network (CMS)- covers children from birth through age18 with special health care or emotional needs or ongoing medical conditions, and Medicaid for children which covers children from birth to 18 years of age.
In order for children to be eligible for this low cost (or even free depending on family situation) program they must be younger than 19 years of age, be uninsured, have not cancelled employer health insurance in the past six months, are United States citizens or qualified non-citizens, are not dependents of a state employee eligible for family coverage, are not in a public institution, and meet income eligibility.
At the news conference, held at Jackson Hospital’s Hudnall Building, several community leaders and two Florida House representatives were in attendance in order to give the families who took the initiative to be present and take part in the enrollment fair held afterwards.
Pastor and parent of children covered by KidCare, Ben Peters, told those present of how this program allows he and his wife, Tracy, to provide for their three children. He spoke of how his oldest son, Drue, became diagnosed with Asthma and required three hundred dollars worth of medication and because of Florida KidCare he was able to afford it as well as cover all three children for around five dollars each for a total of 15 dollars a month.
In addition to Peters, Jackson Hospital Education Director and mother, Anna Brunner, also gave insight on just how expensive medical bills can be. From her experience in the E.R., Brunner has witnessed bills tallying up to 1400 dollars for stitches alone and a 300 dollar fee for having a bug removed from a child’s ear. On average, said Brunner, the medical for children who required services from the E.R. the bill came to a bank breaking 900 dollars.
Local Pediatrician, Joseph Sherrel also informed parents that from birth children require at least 69 immunizations-which can have a negative effect on parents’ wallets. However, for children covered by KidCare, the cost would be tremendously less than those not covered.
According to State Representative, District 7, Marti Coley, 28 million dollars has been allotted to this program, a 15 million dollar increase to last year. Coley stated that the issue of affordable health insurance for children was an important issue that the legislature was addressing- this was one program in which the budget was not cut, but rather increased. In the words of William Long, MSM, Administrator of Jackson County Health Department, this program is something right to come out of Tallahassee.
The Florida KidCare program covers services that range from doctor visits to mental health care and all the important things in between. Though most families do not even attempt to apply for this program because they are under the impression that their annual income is to high for low cost health insurance, it is strongly suggested that they do apply because most of the time, they too are eligible. Most families pay $15 to $20 per month to cover all children in the household. If families are required to pay more, they will be informed. Also, if a child has a pre-existing medical condition, coverage will not be cancelled. For more information on the Florida KidCare program visit www.floridakidcare.org or call 1-800-821-5437.