TALLAHASSEE — While Gov. Charlie Crist opposes Democratic plans for more government-run health care, his administration Thursday boasted about the success of a government-run, taxpayer-subsidized state health program for children.
In just two months, about 50,000 previously uninsured children have signed up for the KidCare program, thanks partly to laws the Republican governor signed this summer to increase enrollment.
"Obviously, health care has become a major topic of discussion throughout this country," Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp said at a Thursday news conference, "and it provides us an opportunity to really highlight one of the shining examples for the country in our KidCare program."
But after the speech, Kottkamp and Crist said that KidCare, which serves about 1.6 million children, shouldn't be held up as an example for how to provide insurance for all citizens.
Kottkamp said children's health insurance is a "different discussion" than health insurance for all. Crist, asked to reconcile the apparent contradiction over his health care stance, would only say: "Shouldn't we always be sympathetic to children?"
Crist has offered a private-sector alternative to the congressional Democrats' plan. Under the plan, called Cover Florida, people can buy insurance that costs less because it covers less. Democrats in Congress and the White House say a government-run plan is better because it would compete with private insurers and cap skyrocketing rates.
One of Crist's Democratic rivals for the Senate, Miami Rep. Kendrick Meek, bashed Crist and Cover Florida. Meek noted on Thursday that while slightly more than 3,700 people have signed up for Cover Florida this year, an estimated 3,560 Floridians lose insurance every week.
"We have seen the hypocrisy of leadership in the state of Florida, just doing enough to say health care insurance is provided," Meek said, noting that Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured children in the nation. Overall, about one in five Floridians is uninsured.
Marc Caputo can be reached at mcaputo@MiamiHerald.com.