Minimum wage workers are getting a pay raise Sept. 30 and Rep. Robin Bartleman of Weston wants to ensure that pay bump won’t cost workers their children’s health insurance.
Bartleman, of Weston, has filed a bill (HB 135) that would increase the maximum income a family can earn to be eligible for state-subsidized health insurance for their children, called Florida KidCare.
Right now, those making less than 200% of the federal poverty level are eligible to get the insurance. That means a single mother with two children can’t earn more than $43,919 in annual income for her children to be eligible for the state-subsidized insurance. Bartleman is proposing the threshold be increased to 250% of the federal poverty level, or $54,900 annually for that same single mother, without losing her eligibility for KidCare insurance.
“No one should have to choose between a better salary and ensuring their child has health insurance,” Bartleman said.
Bartleman had proposed increasing the KidCare maximum eligible income to 300% of the federal poverty level last Legislative Session, but the measure died in the Finance & Facilities Subcommittee. Sen. Lorranne Ausley filed a companion bill, but it too died in committee.
Bartleman said she scaled back the income eligibility and added two new tiers of what families will have to pay at different income thresholds.
Florida KidCare is the umbrella term that covers all the state’s insurance for children whose parents would otherwise have a hard time affording it. Bartleman’s proposal is focused on those who make enough that their children wouldn’t qualify for Medicaid, but whose income is low enough that a regular, commercial plan would likely present a hardship.
Karen Woodall, executive director for the Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy and the Florida People’s Advocacy Center, said the time is ripe for this to happen. The state’s fiscal health is better than anticipated, state coffers are full of federal aid and many people’s careers were unsettled during the pandemic, she said.
“Florida is a low-wage, no-benefits state because of tourism and our retail industry,” Woodall said. “It would be a good thing for Florida’s families.”
The way it is now, people earning 133% of the federal poverty level ($29,206 for a single mother with two children) start paying a premium of $15 to cover all children in the family. If a family earns closer to 200% of the federal poverty level, the premium increases to $20.
Bartleman’s bill would have those making 200% or more federal poverty level (at least $43,920 in annual income for a family of three) paying at least a $30 premium to cover the children. Those making 225% to 250% of the federal poverty level would pay a $40 monthly premium to cover their kids.
The move would increase the number of children enrolled in Florida KidCare by 23%-31%, according to projections from the Georgetown University Health Policy Institute.
Bartleman’s bill would not increase the income eligibility to 250% of the federal poverty level immediately, though. Instead, the income eligibility would increase by 10% of the federal poverty guideline every year. So, a family of three living on between 200% and 210% of the federal poverty level (between $34,696 and $43,700 annually) would be the upper income eligible the first year the bill takes effect.
“It would be phased in over a five-year period,” Bartleman said.
A companion bill has not yet been filed.