When it comes to children getting insurance, there’s good news and bad news. The good news: the number of uninsured children in Florida has dropped—as it has across the county. The bad news: Florida remains near the top of states with the number of kids who don’t have health insurance.
Florida has managed to decrease the number of uninsured children in the state by more than 200,000 in the past six years. Still, 400,000 thousand kids, or 11 percent, remain uninsured in the state. That’s the highest rate in the South and fifth highest in the nation, according to the Georgetown Health Policy Institute. there are ways to bring those numbers down, including an adjustment to how much families pay to participate in Florida’s Healthy Kids insurance program:
“Florida could choose on its own to reduce or eliminate premiums for families just above where they currently pay no premiums and that would help even more," says Joan Alker, the Executive Director of the Center for Children and Families at the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.
The report was commissioned by the Florida Philanthropic Network.
Alker says the state can also simplify the renewal process for families in the Healthy Kids program so children don’t get dropped from their insurance plans. And she says the state could also make it easier for U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants to gain health insurance, but that could also be a hard sell in the Republican-led Florida legislature.
Meanwhile, Georgia with its 9.2 percent uninsured rate among children, is the second-highest in the South, and Alker says the issues facing both Florida and Georgia are similar.
“You have a growing immigrant population, more Hispanic kids and more barriers to enrollment, so it’s not any one factor," she says.
Alabama has the lowest rate of uninsured kids in the south at 4.6 percent. Alker says that’s because Alabama, unlike Florida and Georgia, doesn’t charge a premium for low-income families to insure their children. She also says Alabama has made it easier to keep kids insured by streamlining the registration process, and covers children up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level. Florida's program stops coverage at 200 percent.
But the biggest challenge facing childhood access to health insurance is the federal government, and what it twill or won’t do next year when the programs that fund health insurance for low-income children expire. It will be up to Congress to decide whether to keep the money going.
*Correction: An earlier version of this story stated Alabama has allowed undocumented immigrant families with U.S.-born children to use the state subsidized health insurance plan, but that is incorrect.