House passes Florida KidCare expansion
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Robin Bartleman

A Florida KidCare expansion moved one step closer to reality after the Florida House of Representatives passed a bill allowing children living in families earning 300% of the federal poverty level to qualify for the health care coverage.

The House on Thursday voted unanimously to pass HB 121, a top priority for Speaker Paul Renner.

Rep. Robin Bartleman, a Democrat from Weston who sponsored the legislation, said the bill “is the best thing we can do for working families right now.”

An optional Medicaid expansion, Florida KidCare offers subsidized health insurance access to children 18 and under who live in families that earn too much to qualify for the traditional Medicaid program. Unlike traditional Medicaid, which is free, families pay a monthly premium for the health insurance policy that usually ranges between $15 and $20.

The state combines those premiums with federal and state Medicaid dollars to fund the program. Similar to other Medicaid expansions, such as Obamacare, the federal government provides an enhanced federal Medicaid match to help cover the costs.

Currently, children must live in families earning 215% of the federal poverty level, or less to qualify for the plan. That translates to $64,500 annually for a family of four. HB 121 expands income eligibility to $83,250 annually.

To accommodate newly eligible children expected to enroll, the House has included an additional $34 million in its proposed fiscal year 2023-2024 budget for the program.

The Senate’s proposed spending plan for FY 23-24 does not include the additional funding. Senate Health Care Appropriations Committee Chairman Gayle Harrell indicated additional funds would be forthcoming, though. Harrell made the remarks Wednesday as her committee voted unanimously to pass the Senate’s version of the expansion, contained in SB 246. That bill is sponsored by Miami Republican Sen. Alexis Calatayud.

This is the first time the Legislature has moved to expand income eligibility for the Florida KidCare program since it was initially created in 1998.

Renner is pushing for the expansion as Florida’s minimum wage increases and as the state begins to unwind from the public health emergency and return its Medicaid rolls back to pre-pandemic rules. The state is expecting upward of 1.75 million people to be disenrolled from the Medicaid program over the next year. Many of those who will be removed are children.

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.


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