The number of uninsured Hispanic children in Florida declined by about 2.3 percentage points between 2013 and 2014, according to a report by KidsWell Florida, Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, and National Council of La Raza.
The report’s authors attribute the reduction in the uninsured rate to the success of outreach and enrollment for Florida KidCare and HealthCare.gov. However, Hispanic children still account for 38 percent of the uninsured children in Florida.
Thanks to the leadership of Speaker Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island), Representative Jose Felix Diaz (R-Miami), and Senator Rene Garcia (R-Miami), the Florida Legislature took a positive step forward this past legislative session by eliminating the five-year waiting period for lawfully-residing immigrant kids in the Florida KidCare program, which will help to cover approximately 17,000 children at no cost to the state. The bill becomes effective on July 1, 2016.
“We are happy to see that more Hispanic children will be getting the coverage they need thanks to improvements to Florida KidCare, along with HealthCare.gov,” said Diana Ragbeer, Director of Public Policy and Communications of The Children’s Trust. “However, we should continue to build on that progress and remove additional barriers to health coverage for children so all kids have the best chance possible of growing up to be healthy, productive adults.”
Children’s health advocates recommend increased outreach and enrollment efforts focused on breaking down cultural and linguistic barriers for families to help many of the uninsured Hispanic children and families get access to vital health coverage. In addition, integrated outreach strategies within school-based projects have been identified as a best-practice to reduce the number of uninsured kids.
Nationwide, an estimated 1.7 million Hispanic children were uninsured in 2014, the vast majority of whom are U.S. citizens. Hispanic children are more than one-and-a-half times more likely than all children to lack health insurance. Florida ranks third in the nation in terms of uninsured Hispanic children with more than 143,000 Hispanic children remaining uninsured. The lack of coverage for these children contributes to poorer lifelong health and impedes their ability to attain positive educational and socio-economic outcomes.
“Hispanics currently account for approximately 23 percent of Florida’s workforce and will make up an even greater share in the future,” said Julio Fuentes, President and CEO of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. “Helping Florida’s children get the health coverage they need to succeed today is critical as it will help build a healthier, better educated workforce for tomorrow.”
Research shows children with access to Medicaid coverage were less likely to drop out of high school and were more likely to graduate from college. They also grew up to be healthier, more economically successful adults and as a result paid more in taxes providing a good return on government investment in Medicaid.
“The vast majority of uninsured Hispanic children are eligible for affordable health coverage through Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), but there needs to be a stronger commitment to helping them overcome barriers to enrollment,” said Sonya Schwartz of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families.
Even though Florida has not yet accepted funding to extend Medicaid coverage to uninsured parents and other adults, many of Florida’s uninsured children may already be eligible for Florida KidCare coverage but are not yet enrolled. It has been shown that when parents are eligible for coverage, many children often find coverage through what is known as the “welcome mat” effect.
Families interested in applying for Florida KidCare can visit FloridaKidCare.org or call (888) 540-5437.
To view the report, click here.
Other findings from the report:
- As of 2014, Florida ranks 49 out of 51 states and the District of Columbia in the number of uninsured kids.
- Of the 378,000 uninsured children living in Florida, 143,000 (38.1 percent) are Hispanic.
- Hispanic children accounted for more than one-third (24,086) of the previously uninsured children who enrolled in a health plan between 2013 and 2014.
- Nationwide, Florida experienced the third greatest reduction of the number of uninsured Hispanic children from 2013 to 2014.