Fla. Lawmakers Urge Gov. Crist to Include KidCare in Special Session

May 11, 2007

Democratic legislative leaders wrote to Gov. Charlie Crist urging him to include simplifying KidCare in the list of things lawmakers try to tackle when they return to the Capitol in late June.

More than a half million Florida children do not have health coverage and many of those would be eligible for the state subsidized insurance program. Advocates say KidCare has been made too difficult to navigate for parents, and that’s what has caused enrollment to drop dramatically over the last several years.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers set out this year to streamline KidCare to remove administrative barriers and eliminate some of the issues causing children to drop out of the program.

But the effort broke down in the Senate, as leaders said the different parties trying to negotiate the details of final legislation did not work out their disagreements in time to pass the legislation.

Lawmakers are scheduled to return to Tallahassee for 10 days starting June 12 to try to find a way to cut property taxes, which the Legislature was also unable to work out in the regular legislative session that ended last Friday.

“It seems to us that you, along with Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, could lead negotiations over the next month with representatives from the Legislature and the provider community to iron out the remaining few details,” Democratic leaders wrote to Crist. “If you are able to succeed in forging a final product, we would urge you to include KidCare reform in the June special session.”

A Crist spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday, but Crist said over the weekend he was considering having KidCare added to the agenda.

“I think people are sympathetic, obviously,” Crist said. “There may be an opportunity to do that.”

Crist has also said lawmakers may discuss an auto insurance issue, dealing with the personal injury protection system and acknowledged Saturday that he was cautious about adding too many things to the session because he did not want lawmakers to lose focus.

“By the same token, there’s 10 days of opportunity, too,” Crist said.

Republicans have also called for continuing to seek a solution. Rep. Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, who sponsored the streamlining effort during the regular session said last week that he hoped the issue would be taken up in special session.

Backers of the effort to streamline KidCare have said that in addition to leaving children without health coverage, the state is losing out on federal money. Florida has missed out on nearly $140 million in federal money by not boosting enrollment in the program.

The main sticking point in the effort to fix problems in the program is who should run it _ with some preferring to have the program in the state Department of Health and others pushing for it to be in the Agency for Health Care Administration.

The calls from Democratic state legislators followed those by several other politicians in the last few days who have urged Crist and the Legislature to revisit the issue in June, among them Sink, who in her capacity as chief financial officer is also chairwoman of the board that oversees KidCare, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa.

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