FLORIDA: Receives Go-Ahead For Kiddiecare Program
Florida yesterday became the fourth state to receive approval of its Children's Health Insurance Program (Kiddiecare) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The state, which stands to receive as much as $270 million in fiscal 1998 for its Kiddiecare program, will offer coverage through an expansion of both its Medicaid and Healthy Kids programs. Florida's Medicaid program, which currently covers 800,000 children ages 15-19 with family incomes up to 28% of the federal poverty level, will expand eligibility for that age group to families earning up to 100% of the poverty level. The Healthy Kids program, presently available in 20 counties, will be expanded in existing counties and to new counties. There are no income limits for participation in Healthy Kids, but Kiddiecare dollars will subsidize premiums for participating children in families at or below 185% of the poverty level. HHS said that it will work with the state to ensure that currently insured children retain their present form of coverage and that Kiddiecare funds are used to expand coverage to uninsured children (HCFA release, 3/5). The Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel reports that Gov. Lawton Chiles (D) "said he was pleased with the commitment but was awaiting legislative approval of a broader program that would provide insurance for 300,000 young people" (Nitkin, 3/6). Chiles' Children's Health Initiative "would provide insurance coverage to an additional 200,000 children." The governor noted yesterday's success, saying, "This represents a historic step forward that will make a meaningful difference in the lives of Florida children and their families" (St. Petersburg Times, 3/6).
A League Of Their Own
Florida, Pennsylvania and New York were the only three states in the nation to be "grandfathered" approval for existing Kiddiecare programs under the CHIP legislation. Along with Alabama, Colorado and South Carolina, Florida is the fourth state to win federal approval of its Kiddiecare application. HHS must approve a state's plan for insuring low-income children; options include designing a new program, extending the existing Medicaid program or a combination of both. "We are pleased Florida is ready to move ahead in providing health care coverage that is so critical to a bright future for the state's children," said HCFA administrator Nancy-Ann Min DeParle (HHS release, 3/5).