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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida criticized for low KidCare enrollment as federal health bonus goes unused



Florida is losing out on millions of federal dollars by failing to help more low-income families get health insurance for their children.

The federal government recently awarded nearly $300 million in bonuses to 23 states that have increased enrollment and improved access to children's health programs. Among Florida's neighbors, Alabama received $19 million, Georgia nearly $5 million and Louisiana almost $2 million.

But Florida, which has more than 380,000 children whose families' incomes should make them eligible for coverage, didn't get a dime of the bonus dollars. Only California and Texas have more children from low-income families who don't have public health coverage.

What's the problem? To get the funding, states must meet specific criteria governing how the money is distributed, and Florida has failed to enact the legislation and policies needed to meet those requirements.

"It's a tremendous loss to Florida," said state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Weston, who has pushed unsuccessfully for legislation that would improve access to Medicaid, the state-federal health program for the poorest residents, and KidCare, the program aimed at children of the working poor. "Each and every year we are in a group of states that leaves money on the table, and that money ends up going to other states."

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[Last modified: Monday, January 16, 2012 9:23am]


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