Florida KidCare premiums can be waived for some, but not all, enrollees in Hurricane Ian’s path

Stephanie Haridopolis ART
Waiving the monthly premiums for 68,211 children in 26 counties would cost more than $3.4M per month.

Florida’s health insurance provider for children is considering ways to help families who were hit by Hurricane Ian, but those who run the program say a blanket policy waiving monthly premium requirements isn’t in the works.

There are 68,211 Florida KidCare enrollees living in the 26 counties where the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has issued a disaster declaration following Hurricane Ian. Waiving the requirement that the families pay premiums would cost the Florida KidCare program more than $3.4 million a month, according to Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos.

“I don’t want children to lose insurance because of this. No one on this team does,” said Haridopolos, Chair of the board of directors for the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation (FHKC), which administers the KidCare program.

“What I suggest is that instead of blanketing it for everybody — not everybody lost their job or lost their house even though they are in a county that is deemed a devastation area — we take care of it on an individual basis.”

This is not the first time the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation board of directors has had to tackle the thorny issue of collecting health insurance premiums from families impacted by hurricanes.

Former Gov. Jeb Bush waived KidCare premiums for Florida families during the tumultuous 2005 hurricane season, when four hurricanes hit the state.

Unlike Bush, Gov. Rick Scott never waived the premium requirements for families living in 48 counties that were impacted by Hurricane Irma in late 2017. Instead of waiving premiums, which a high-ranking Medicaid official at the time equated to giving a “freebie,” the Scott administration gave the families an additional month to pay the premium.

Thousands of children were disenrolled from the program as a result of the policy, which drew criticism from children’s health advocates as well as state Democrats.

In March 2018, the Legislature agreed to use taxpayer dollars to pay the costs of health insurance premiums for about 6,000 children.

And in October 2018, after Hurricane Michael decimated the Florida Panhandle, the FHKC board agreed to cover the monthly premium payments for children in the 12 counties that FEMA declared eligible for individual assistance.

But many of those counties are rural and not as heavily populated as the 26 southwest Florida counties that FEMA has declared eligible for assistance following Ian.

Haridopolis said the corporation could work with families that proactively reach out to the corporation seeking assistance. “We work with them on an individual basis waving the premiums for X amount of months or a month or whatever they need at the time,” she said.

Florida KidCare is the umbrella name for the state’s efforts to insure children. It provides access to subsidized health insurance policies for children up to the age 19 with incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty level.

Florida KidCare encompasses four programs: Medicaid, MediKids, Florida Healthy Kids and the Children’s Medical Services (CMS) Health Plan. There is one application for the Florida KidCare program. Children are assigned into one of the four programs based on their age and their family’s income level.

Traditional Medicaid covers Florida newborns through age 1 who are living in families that earn up to 200% of the federal poverty level. There are no monthly premiums or co-payments in Medicaid. But the poverty guidelines change once a child turns 1.

To continue to qualify for Medicaid, children between the ages of 1 and 18 must live in families that earn less than 133% of the federal poverty level.

Children between the ages of 1 and 4 living in families that earn more than 133% of the federal poverty level but less than 200% of the federal poverty level are transitioned to the MediKids program. Families enrolled in MediKids must pay monthly premiums and co-payments.

The Florida Healthy Kids program is the option for children between the ages of 5 and 18 living in families that earn between 133% and 200% of the federal poverty level.

Similar to MediKids, families enrolled in the Florida Healthy Kids program must contribute to the costs of their children’s care with premiums and co-payments.

Meanwhile, the CMS plan is the offering for medically complex children between the ages of 1 and 18, so long as the family’s income is under 200% of the federal poverty level. Whether the family contributes to the cost of care for their children enrolled in this program is based on their income level.

Members of the Florida Healthy Kids Corporation board of directors didn’t vote on the position at their Thursday meeting. They only listened to Haridpolos explain options under consideration.

FHKC spokesperson Ashley Carr said the corporation has already heard from families and has issued “credits” for 115 children to ensure they don’t lose health care coverage.

We are encouraging enrollees to call us if they are having difficulties making their premium payments because of the storm,” she said in an email to Florida Politics.

Additionally, FHKC has agreed to give families in those counties an additional month to make their KidCare premiums, which typically are due one month in advance of coverage.

Moreover, FHKC also has agreed to enroll people in the program after they have applied and are accepted. Typically, FHKC only enrolls approved children at the end of the month. The switch in policy means that children can be enrolled mid-month or later.

Christine Jordan Sexton

Tallahassee-based health care reporter who focuses on health care policy and the politics behind it. Medicaid, health insurance, workers’ compensation, and business and professional regulation are just a few of the things that keep me busy.

One comment

  • marylou

    October 21, 2022 at 2:41 pm

    Majority of the US population supports Medicare For All. Why do Republicans keep voting against universal healthcare like every other rich country has??

Comments are closed.


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