Florida lags behind most states in providing children health insurance and other tools they need for growing into educated, healthy and productive citizens, a nonpartisan organization found in its latest survey.
New data shows how the COVID-19 pandemic has destabilized Florida families, already dealing with conditions that rank the state in the bottom half of the country for statistical indicators of child well-being. The Florida Policy Institute (FPI), based in Orlando, is urging support for a current bill (HB 135) that would increase the amount of money families can make and still qualify for state-subsidized health care, known as KidCare. FPI is a nonprofit that advances policies to improve the economic mobility and quality of life for Floridians.
“The insurance models we have for children is coming up short,” said Robert Bridges, chief executive of Nemours Florida Operations, an FPI partner.
Currently, Florida ranks 35th among the states for overall child well-being, according to the annual Kids Count survey administered by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, with FPI as its partner in this state. Florida is among the bottom half of states for indicators, including single-parent homes, children without health insurance, and children living in households with higher housing costs than income. There was some good news, though. The state ranks 12th in education indicators.
Nevertheless, the statistically significant survey results found that the number of children without health insurance rose steadily since hitting a low in 2016. It’s grown a full percentage point since then. Nearly 8% of Floridians younger than 19 don’t have health insurance, the survey found.
Increasing the percentage of kids with health coverage is critically important, said Anne Swerlick, a senior policy analyst and attorney for FPI.
On average, states allow households earning up to 255% of the federal poverty level to qualify for state-subsidized health care, while Florida caps income at 200% of the federal poverty level for kids to be eligible for KidCare, Swerlick said. In Florida, that means a household of three with an income of more than $4,416 a month would have to pay the full-pay premium to participate in KidCare. That’s $243 per child, per month, Swerlick said.
“That is really a drastic cliff of affordability that is cost-prohibitive for most families,” Swerlick said.
And that’s hurting children, she said.
“There’s all kinds of research showing that compared to their uninsured counterparts, kids with insurance are more likely to do better in school, to graduate, to be independent as adults, have well-paying jobs and pay taxes,” Swerlick said. “It has long-range consequences for children.”
While the big-picture Kids Count data shows indicators for child well-being in Florida need improvement, a snapshot survey also shows the pandemic struggles facing Florida families are far from over. The Household Pulse Survey found 23% of households with children had lost income in the past four weeks, and 19% had little or no confidence in their ability to pay their next rent or mortgage payment.