Friday, October 31, 2008

We’re Number 2

Florida ranks as second in the nation for uninsured children.

South Florida, with a relatively high number of lower-wage service jobs and minority families who are more likely to be uninsured, leads the state in uninsured children.

The growing numbers in Florida and nationally underline the need for Congress to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and to funnel money from an economic stimulus program into more children’s coverage, said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. President Bush vetoed the program’s expansion last year.

“That will determine whether children get the preventive care they need so they can remain healthy,” Pollack said. Those two actions would cover almost half of the 800,000 uninsured Florida children, he estimated.

The new study found that an average of 18.8 percent of Florida children had no coverage from 2005 to 2007.

There are programs out there, but the word isn’t getting to the communities that could most use them.

Many families don’t sign up because the state has not done a good job telling them about the programs, after the Legislature cut advertising money, said state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston.

“We have had a very poor system of outreach and education,” Rich said. “These are some of the hardest-to-reach families. You can’t just put an ad on TV. You have to go into the communities.”

State Medicaid officials, who oversee KidCare, agree and are asking for $3 million in outreach money in next year’s budget, triple the present amount, state Medicaid Director Dyke Snipes said.

If I was a complete cynic, I would say that the Legislature — controlled by Republicans — would consider holding back the outreach money so they can say with a straight face that they supported health care for children but the programs didn’t do any good because nobody took advantage of them, so why spend all that money on them? Like I said, if I was a complete cynic…