KidCare Expansion Bill Wins Support From House Leader And Health Panel

Jan 13, 2016

The children of legal immigrants could soon gain access to the state’s KidCare program. KidCare offers subsidized health insurance to low- and middle-income families, and it has taken several years to get through the legislature.

House Speaker Steve Crisafulli is urging his chamber to approve the kidCare bill:

“These children and their parents have followed our laws, and should be able to access the same services many Florida families can. This legislature has acted with similar compassion in recent years, and I ask for your full support of Chair Diaz’s bill. Crisafulli's endorsement won applause from his chamber.

The bill eliminates a five-year wait period for children of Legal immigrant families to enroll in KidCare. Republican Senator Rene Garcia has tried for years to get the bill through the legislature, but it’s often faced backlash due to anti-immigration sentiments. The House version of the bill is backed by Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz who alluded to that backlash.

“We’re here today because somebody took the plunge and made a difference for generations of their family members by coming to the greatest country in the world," he said.

And Democratic Rep. Hazel Rogers says the bill is a major policy change:

“I am so happy today this bill is passing. As an immigrant myself, I understand exactly what you’ve done for that population," she said. Rogers was born in Jamaica, West Indes.

The proposal would allow about 17,000 low and middle-income immigrant children to get health insurance through KidCare. Florida remains near the top of states for its large number of uninsured kids.

A day after Speaker Crisafulli signaled his endorsement of the plan, it cleared with no opposition in the House’s Health Innovation subcommittee. And an emotional Diaz says the plan is overdue.

“If there’s one kid in Florida we can help, we’re doing a damn good job. And we’re doing it for tens of thousands of them," he said. 

Costs associated with allowing more kids into KidCare have dwindled over the years. When the measure was first proposed, costs hovered in the six figures. Today, a staff analysis estimates such an expansion would cost about $32 million, with the federal government paying most of the bill. The proposal would not apply to undocumented immigrants.